Bringing Band Of Goldto the stage for the first time, writer-director Kay Mellor promises fans are in for a treat, she tells Stage Review.
“They’ll get all the joy and the suspense they had from the television version,” says the creator of one of the most-watched shows in British TV history, “but it’s live theatre so it has that excitement to it because it’s unfolding right in front of their very eyes.”
Revising the plot of the first series but adding a few twists to keep it fresh and surprising, the play’s writer and director adds: “It’s funny and it’s sad and audiences are going to be told a big story not over six weeks but two hours with a beginning, middle and an end.”
Set, like the TV show, in the early ’90s, the stage version is bringing back the iconic characters and moments that made Band Of Goldsuch a sensation when it premiered on ITV.
But the killer of young mother turned sex worker Gina won’t be the same, with Mellor teasing: “I think people will be more satisfied than they were with the TV revelation.”
The Leeds-born writer was originally inspired to write the hard-hitting drama when, on the way to a party, she and her husband drove through Lumb Lane in Bradford – a notorious hangout for sex workers
A young woman approached their car. “It was like someone had hit me in the solar plexus,” Kay recalls, “because she was so young – 14 or 15 – and my daughters weren’t much older than that.”
Haunted by the encounter, Kay left the party early to track down the girl but was told by another sex worker that the teenager had ‘pimp problems’.
Mellor sighs. “I never saw her again, but I started thinking ‘What is it that drives a woman onto the Lane to sell her body?”
It took eight years for her to get what would become Band Of Gold on screen “fighting, everybody and literally begging people to read the script, because I was an unknown writer writing about sex workers in the North of England and who’s gonna put that on television?”
The fight paid off. The show wasn’t just a gripping crime drama, it was a phenomenon – with more than 15 million viewers tuning in each week, fans holding Band Of Goldparties where they’d catch the latest episode over wine and pizza and bookies taking bets on the identity of Gina’s killer before the big reveal at the end of the first series.
Kay would go on to become one of the UK’s most successful and revered dramatists, penning the likes of Playing The Field, The Syndicate and Girlfriends for television and turning her much-loved show Fat Friends (which aired from 2000-2005) into a hugely successful 2017 stage musical, which she also directed.
Band Of Goldremains a firm favourite among Mellor fans.
Now, 22 years on from the series finale, Kay has come up with a new version starring her daughter, Gaynor Faye, and Laurie Brett, Kieron Richardson, Shayne Ward, Sacha Parkinson and Andrew Dunn.
After reworking Band Of Gold as a play, she work-shopped it twice and made big changes, but the anonymous feedback from the second workshop was that everyone would pay to see it and everyone would recommend it to a friend.
“That’s when I thought ‘OK, let’s take this to the next stage,’ and I decided to set it in its original time period because actually nothing much has changed since then. If anything, things have become harder with austerity and Universal Credit.
“There are more sex workers than there were 20 years ago – people selling their bodies to basically feed their kids or make ends meet. It’s more relevant to today than ever before.
“We’ve assembled this brilliant new cast of great actors and some well-known faces and it allows me to re-invent Band of Gold for both its long-term fans and those coming to it for the first time”.