Writer and Director: Kay Mellor
Kay Mellor’s Band of Gold became something of a hit during the 1990s when it aired on ITV, pulling in some 15 million viewers a week. Now audiences have a chance to see the characters on stage, in an adaptation that is loosely based on the first series of the TV programme.
We meet Gina, who has left an abusive husband and is trying to sell cosmetics in a bid to make some money so she can pay off a loan shark and take care of her young daughter. She is desperate, the business isn’t going very well, and when she knocks on one door she finds Anita and Carol just getting ready to go out to work as prostitutes – so Gina decides that this must be an easy and quick way to make a lot of money. Then, what starts off as an exploration of the women and their motives for going into sex work suddenly turns into a murder mystery. Add in a subplot about a Councillor getting sexual favours in return for a cleaning contract, another man who seems to be acting strangely and a Police Inspector who turns out to be Carol’s ex, and there’s an awful lot going on to try to squeeze into two hours.
The cast works hard and is well-cast. Gaynor Faye (Rose) gives us a classic hard, straight-talking sex worker, while Emma Osman’s Carol is similarly down-to-earth and pragmatic. Virginia Byron – on for an indisposed Laurie Brett – is increasingly desperate as Anita, the woman kept by the man who owns the cleaning company. Sacha Parkinson is suitably naïve yet determined as newcomer Gina, and Olwen May does a good job as Gina’s mother, Joyce.
Maybe it’s that Mellor is struggling to decide what sort of play she wants to write, but Band of Gold doesn’t really satisfy as either a character piece or a murder story. Despite her aim, stated in the programme as to “get to know these women”, we really don’t. It all feels very superficial, and we never really get under their skins leaving us with characters who seem somewhat two-dimensional and stereotyped. Past issues and relationships are mentioned and passed over. Issues of child prostitution and drug abuse pass by fleetingly and are never heard of again. There’s just too much subplot and too many other characters around to give us the chance to really delve deep into their make-up. But it’s not a classic murder mystery either – we don’t get chance to really work out whodunnit, despite one overly obvious clue, and the way the killer is uncovered almost out of nowhere makes you wonder why that part of the plot has been included.
With short scenes and big scene changes, it doesn’t flow particularly well, and the first half feels slow – then when there are so many loose ends to tie up, the second half seems very rushed as the subplots all fight for space to get resolved.
Fans of the 1990s TV programme will enjoy meeting the familiar characters and situations again, but if you’re coming at it as a newcomer to the programme, you may find that there’s not a lot here that feels new or ground-breaking.
Runs until 15 February 2020