Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre

Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate Review Leeds Grand Theatre (3)

By Gail Schuster, April 2024

It was a full house for The Syndicate at the Grand, a play written by Leeds’ own Kay Mellor, and directed by her daughter Gaynor Faye. Faye is well-known for playing Megan Macey in Emmerdale amongst other roles. Joshua Andrews, who collaborated with Mellor on Fat Friends The Musical and Band of Gold and Rollem Productions, originally set up by Mellor, co-produced this latest version. Before this stage production it was a popular television series. The first season of The Syndicate originally aired on BBC One in 2012 and seasons 2, 3 and 4 were broadcasted between 2013 and 2021.

The Syndicate follows a group of five supermarket employees through their trials and tribulations of health, money worries, and relationship problems. Just as they are about to be made redundant their lottery numbers come up and they win the jackpot, but like many other lottery winners, money doesn’t always solve problems or bring happiness to everyone. Like previous Mellor productions there is clever dialogue and fully fleshed out characters who are predominantly northern working class. Themes of friendship, love, self-confidence, family and motherhood run throughout the story.

Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate Review Leeds Grand Theatre (1)

“Grappling with the fallout”

Faye, as well as producing and directing, portrays Kay, the adjudicator from the lottery company, who has to ensure that everyone is entitled to the payout. Additionally, she is tasked with getting the publicity shots and interviews that the company wants, whilst the winners are grappling with the fallout of their recent win. Oliver Anthony, Faye’s son in real life, plays the cheeky, roguish and selfish Jamie. This is classic comedy drama, and the relationship between Jamie and his brother Stuart, Benedict Shaw, provides both tension and moments of levity.

Other actors from northern soap operas also star in this show. Brooke Vincent, who portrays Sophie Webster in Coronation Street, and Samantha Giles, Bernice Blackstock in Emmerdale. I really enjoyed Giles’ performance as the kind, dog-mad, naive Denise, whilst Vincent who plays Stuart’s girlfriend Amy, is her antithesis; vain, self-centred, and avaricious. William Ilkley is well-cast as amiable Supermarket Manager, Bob. Each character has their own driving motivations for how to spend the prize money.

Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate Review Leeds Grand Theatre (2)

“Great comedy”

The sets and costumes were designed by Bretta Gerecke who is the resident designer at the Catalyst Theatre in Canada. There is a clever juxtaposition of the sets in the show. The first act features the mundane, drab setting of a small supermarket which is run on a shoestring, where we get to know the characters, their problems, and family circumstances. The second set features the post-win, lavish, rented home of Stuart, where Amy reigns. Additional areas of the supermarket and other locations appear as if by magic at the side of the stage, being lit up when needed. On two occasions these are a hospital, allowing us to see the contrasting big life events which are happening to the characters.

This is a great comedy drama and a good evening’s entertainment. The dialogue makes reference to several Leeds locations which clearly resonated with the audience. It is classic Mellor, and the last play which she wrote prior to her sad passing in 2022. It will please new and old fans alike.

‘The Syndicate’ is at Leeds Grand Theatre until 28th April
images: David Hogan


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