REVIEW: Band of Gold @ Darlington Hippodrome

Posted on January 28th 2020 by Whats on Northeast

Review by Amanda Tutin

For those of you that love a good old crime drama, Kay Mellor’s classic mid-90’s hit ITV show Band of Gold has thankfully been adapted for the stage and is on a national theatre tour. The ground-breaking crime drama is set in a notorious red light district, ‘the lane’, in Yorkshire and revolves around four very different sex workers and their love/hate relationship with the game and details their reasoning of why they are in it in the first place. In a time where pay cheques don’t make ends meet and visits to shady loan sharks are prevalent, the individual stories pull on the empathy strings of the audience. After an incident with one of the girls, it’s a who-done-it race to solve the crime and keep themselves safe.

Kay Mellor had a task on her hands having to squash three series worth of content into a just over 2 hours, 2 act show, but she managed to pull it out of the bag and made it feel authentic. The first act seemed ever so slightly slow as it introduced the characters and built the rapport between the old girls and the newbie on the scene. The first act ends with a nasty situation and it’s straight into the police investigation in act 2, which felt a little rushed with the condensed storylines and the villain of the night not getting much stage time at all. However, overall it was a brilliant show that I thoroughly enjoyed. Back when it was on TV, I was too young to have watched it, but I knew the gist of the show. Having not experienced the tv show, I don’t feel I’ve missed out on anything as the theatre production seemed to cover the things that other people could remember and had told me about– the rubber gloved man for example!

Cast wise, I felt the characters were believable and worked well together. Head girl Rose (Gaynor Faye) runs ‘the lane’ and looks out for all the other girls. Faye brings a rough and ready yet natural element to the character. Next up is Anita (Laurie Brett) who, in her mind, isn’t a sex worker at all, when in fact she undoubtedly is. She has high hopes and dreams about how she wants to live her life and when it all comes crashing down, you really see the vulnerability and naivety in the character. Brett brought the witty comedy factor with her one line quips and she had the audience chuckling on a number of occasions. She even gave us some karaoke numbers throughout the show which I found myself singing along to. Despite being one of the younger women in the game, Carol (played by Emma Osman, a freshman on the theatre scene) is feisty, has her heart in the right place and she really caught my attention. Her put downs were pretty funny too. Lastly we have Gina (Sacha Parkinson) the new girl on the block whose Avon selling job isn’t bringing in the money that she needs to make ends meet. But it’s not just about the women. Curly, George and Mr Moore were really good characters too. I felt a little disappointed that Inspector Newall (Shayne Ward) wasn’t in it as much as I’d expected, however his interactions with Carol were pretty good.

The set was innovative given the story spans across quite a few locations with its backlit panels being moved to and fro across the stage with each scene change. One thing I thought worked really well was the car brake and headlights moving across ‘the lane’ scenes which were coupled with car sounds. It just worked perfectly.  And hat’s off to the stage hands with their super quick set changes wheeling in pink couches and bar stools etc.

Word of warning though, the dialogue and content are not for the fainthearted with its regular profanity and expected sexual content. Band of Gold is an authentic, empowering tale of a very honest and gritty slice of society and it runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Mon 27 Jan – Sat 1 Feb and it’s certainly a performance I’d go and watch again and again.

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