The Syndicate – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

Writer: Kay Mellor

Director: Gaynor Faye

There’s no denying Kay Mellor’s ability to write a drama. with TV hits Band of Gold, Playing the Field and Fat Friends and stints writing for Coronation Street and Brookside, to name only a few, her pedigree is almost unmatched. Her considerable ability to write relatable and believable work about working class lives is evidenced by enviable viewer figures and a raft of awards.

However, an identity crisis as to what it wants to be, means The Syndicate, based on her 2012 BBC series is a peculiar watch.

Simply it’s the story of a group of Northern shop workers who win big on the lottery. There’s Bob (William Ilkley) avuncular store manager, dog-loving Denise (Samantha Giles) middle-aged with an unhappy husband at home, southerner with a secret Leanne (Rosa Coduri-Fulford) and pair of brothers, golden boy Stuart (Benedict Shaw) and lairy Jamie (Oliver Anthony). The shop where they work has been taken over by a larger company and plans are to demolish the store. With joblessness added to innumerable other personal problems, some of the group seek alternative ways to secure their futures.

As the drama unfolds, the back stories are revealed and the consequences of both their actions and winning big bucks are revealed. There are elements of comedy, social, moral and crime drama stirred into the mix. The problem in packing all of this into a hundred minute running time is an unevenness in tone. The characterisations are, in some cases, overtly caricatured, while others are wracked with angst and all share the same stage. None are developed three-dimensionally and the writing falls into cliché and predictability, eventually tying up the story threads with the inevitable money doesn’t buy you happiness ending.

There are some stand out performances, William Ilkley is warm and loveable as Bob, fighting some seemingly insurmountable problems with typical Northern stoicism and Mellor’s grandson Oliver Anthony. here in his stage debut, as the utterly repulsive Jamie shows promise for a bright acting future.

The potential of the adaptation of this much-loved and lauded TV show to stage is unfulfilled, it all adds up to a undemanding evening at the theatre but you can’t help wish it could have been so much more.

Runs until 6 July 2024 | Image: Contributed

The Reviews Hub Score

Unfulfilled potential

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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One Comment

  1. This was one of the worst and most boring stage plays I have ever seen. I find it hard to believe it was written by Kay Mellor. Not only was the story absolutely nothing to do with the TV show but the acting by these so called ” tv stars” was totally wooden and they should stick to soaps. Couldn’t wait for it to end. Give it a wide berth !!!!!!!

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