A lifestyle blog all about Birmingham, UK.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

REVIEW: Band of Gold, The Alexandra, Birmingham

Band of Gold captivated over 15 million viewers each week when it aired on ITV back in the 90s. The thriller revolves around a group of women – Carol, Rose, Anita and Gina – as they battle to survive working in a red-light district in Bradford.

Kay Mellor, who is the woman behind not only Band of Gold, but also the likes of Fat Friends and The Syndicate, decided to turn the popular TV series into a stage show following the success of Fat Friends The Musical. However, trying to turn the first series of a TV drama into a two hour production is complicated work…

The audience meet Gina, who has left an abusive husband and is attempting to flog off cosmetics as the local Avon girl in a bid to make some money so that she can pay off a vicious loan shark, so that she can look after her young daughter without needing to take her vile ex back. But whilst out trying to sell lip-gloss and moisturiser, she knocks on the door of Carol, who has been selling sex since she was just 13. She gets talking prostitution with Carol and Anita, who occasionally lets the girls use her flat to bring men back to, and decides that selling sex is a quick and easy way to make a lot of money, giving Gina the opportunity to finally get rid of the loan shark.

But, whilst Gina is working the lanes, trying to make the last bit of cash needed to pay the loan off, she gets suddenly murdered. This turns the play about understanding the reasons behind why women end up selling sex, into somewhat of a murder mystery. Alongside this main storyline, there is also a man acting very strangely in the local pub, Carol’s ex who turns out to be a Police Inspector, and a Councillor getting plenty of sexual favours. This is also alongside other mini plots of what people will actually do to win a cleaning contract, and Rose desperate to meet her teenage daughter who was taken off her as a baby. Therefore, as you can imagine, there is a huge amount going on in this production.

There is an excellent cast, full of relatively big names from the likes of Coronation Street, Eastenders and Hollyoaks. Gina is played by Sacha Parkinson, who I absolutely loved watching as teenager in My Mad Fat Diary, so I was delighted to see her in this production, and doing a brilliant job of this complicated character. The headstrong and sassy Rose is played by Gaynor Faye, who works incredibly hard at perfecting this role in the show, and Emma Osman also does a great job as the flirty but fiery Carol.

This show is undeniably all about the women, but that doesn’t mean that the men go under the radar. X Factor winner and Coronation Street star Shayne Ward takes on the role of Inspector Newall, and Hollyoaks actor Kieron Richardson is Gina’s evil ex Steve, and does a fantastic job.

The set was made up of many sliding doors, which was innovative, and almost felt like the change of scenery in a TV series, which was a good way to give a nod to the 90s ITV drama. We were taken from the local pub to Gina’s house, Carol’s super clean living room and, of course, the lanes themselves, where the girls go to earn their money. However, sometimes it took just a little too long to change sets, making the scenes sometimes feel a bit disjointed, and towards the end, there were so many changes that it was difficult to keep up with what was going on.

The story itself behind the show is excellent, and I really admire how Kay Mellor wanted to show a different side to women who sell sex, rather than just being stereotypical and expected. However, there were elements to the show that I would absolutely change. The whole production needs tightening up and there really is simply too much going on. And because there’s too much going on, it means the audience doesn’t get to know each character as well as we wanted to, which meant I left the show with so many questions, having not have had the closure what I needed from the production.

Although the show is somewhat of a murder mystery, when we do eventually find out who the killer is, it wasn’t exactly a big shocking moment and was swiftly set aside to tie loose ends up of other plot lines going on in the show, making the show not quite a thriller, but also not quite a comedy. The cast were all brilliant, but it would have been nice to see more of Shayne Ward throughout the production rather than more towards the end. Despite having an excellent cast, it was the attempt of having too many stories within one show that simply lets this production down.

Fans of the 90s hit TV show will no doubt really enjoy the show and will love the nostalgia of meeting these women once again. But if you’re not familiar with the story already, I strongly suggest that you do your research beforehand, as elements of it may seem a bit random if not. The story is good, the cast are great, the music is excellent – but the magic was simply missing in this show.

RATING: 6/10

*I was gifted two tickets to this show in exchange of a review on this blog. I have not accepted payment for this review. I paid for all travel to and from the theatre.

All pictures captured by Ant Robling. 


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