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The Syndicate - Cast interviews

The Syndicate was a family affair long before it blasted onto the box in 2012 with a host of famous faces amongst the cast. Written and produced by “titan of TV” Kay Mellor, her daughter Gaynor Faye was the series script editor. 

 

"I just knew that it was going to be a hit because she captured the brothers, the family, the whole arena of what winning the lottery and such a substantial amount of money brings to people – both the good and the not so good!  “My mum writes for people, not accolades.  “The people who watch her shows, those are the people she relates to, the people she champions and admires. She encapsulates them and shows what it is to be a normal every day person. “At times it’s funny, at times it’s dramatic or moving, but the key thing is that everyone can see themselves in her characters and that’s why people love her work.”

 

With a cast including stars like Timothy Spall and Joanna Page, The Syndicate was a huge hit when it aired on BBC One and went on to enjoy success with three more series.

 

The first series has now been adapted for the stage by Kay in what was her final venture into theatre before her untimely death 2 years ago. She had already asked Gaynor to co-direct the project with her, and now the actress is going it alone in a move that she confesses has been rather daunting. 

Gaynor says: “Mum’s shoes are big ones to fill, but I understand what her vision was for this production because I have been by her side from the very beginning. I’m excited for everyone to see it.”

 

Adding to the family feel of The Syndicate is the news that Gaynor’s son, Oliver Anthony, has joined the cast in the role of Jamie.  He believes having three generations of one family involved in the show brings a unique experience for audiences: “There’s real heart to this show, there’s a lot of love for it, it just feels special.  “Kay had been mentoring me for the last four years, she knew how hard the industry can be and said she saw potential in me. “She took me under her wing and really helped me learn the business both in front of the camera and behind.

“To now be involved with the stage show, and Gaynor, my mum directing it too, it just feels special.  “I have so many wonderful memories of my grandmother, every day beside her was a dream.”

 

The Syndicate tells the story of five supermarket workers whose lottery syndicate numbers come in just as their jobs and livelihoods are under threat. 

Will a share of the jackpot make their dreams come true or their nightmares a reality? One thing’s for certain, the win of a lifetime will change the lives, loves and relationships of the syndicate members forever.

 

Such is the success of Kay’s writing that her stories have become a hit on the stage as well as the screen with the hugely successful stage adaptions Fat Friends – The Musical and Band of Gold, which, like The Syndicate, were also collaborations between Kay’s company Rollem and theatre producer, Josh Andrews.

 

For actresses Samantha Giles and Brooke Vincent, the chance to work on a Kay Mellor production was too good an opportunity to miss.

Brooke, who became a household name playing Sophie Webster in the ITV soap Coronation Street from 2004 to 2019, says landing the role of Amy was a real thrill: “I’ve kind of taken a step back to have my two boys so this is my return to acting and I’m so excited. “I love Kay’s work, it’s so real and there’s such a sense of warm northern humour that I just adore.”  Meanwhile Samantha was looking for a new challenge after recently leaving her hugely successful role as Bernice Blackstock in Emmerdale, where she entertained fans on and off over the last 26 years.  Talking about her role as kind-hearted worker Denise, the 52-year-old says: “A lot of people are only used to seeing me as Bernice, who is this glamorous person and Denise is the polar opposite!  “She’s a bit on the frumpy side, life hasn’t been so good to her, she’s just totally different to Bernice which is so lovely to play.  “I think Kay’s writing is so good, she’s able to create real stories and wonderful characters that people can relate to and reflect how ordinary people live.”

 

Samantha and Brooke are veterans of drama having navigated the fast pace of soap-land for years, so taking to the stage in front of a live audience should be a walk in the park.  Mum-of-two Brooke, 31 laughs: “No, of course I’ll be nervous!

“But the way I deal with it is just to think there’s no point worrying now, I need to just wait until I’m on stage and then be nervous and face the fear anyway!  “It’s that sense that you’re in a team, you all have a part to play to bring the show to life and you just need to feed off that.”  Samantha agrees: “It’s been 14 years since I’ve done a play so I am feeling nervous but I think if you weren't nervous you might not care.

“Nerves are good and I think the more we do it, the more confident we get. I just think you can’t beat live theatre.  “Just to hear the reaction from the audience and have that shared experience, there’s nothing like it. “And there’s a bond between everyone on the stage, everyone needs to do their part and we look after each other. That’s what I love about a play like this.”  Their admission of nerves will come as welcome relief to their co-star Oliver.  While he’s no stranger to the Syndicate story, having starred in series four of the BBC drama, he is making his theatre debut in the role of Jamie.He says: “I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, but that's just because I want to make Kay proud.“I've been a part of this story since she adapted it into a theatre script. I played the role of Jamie in the development workshops of the play and actually read the part in the auditions for many of these other amazing actors. So to then be on the other side of the auditioning process as an actor, and get the part, is incredible. “Now I really want to prove I deserve my place in the show and give it my best shot, I’m grabbing this opportunity with both hands.”

So after all this time playing Jamie during casting, what is it about the character that appeals to him so much?  Oliver explains: “He’s so electric and brings this energy to the stage that I just absolutely love.  “He’s very three dimensional, he’s got a switch in him which can make him villainous, and that’s always amazing to play as an actor, but then he’s also got this real sense of love and connection with his brother, which I totally understand.  “I don’t have a brother but I have a sister and I understand that sibling bond.“I just love that he’s brash but he gets away with it because he’s always got a cheeky smile and a glint in his eye!”  For Brooke taking on the role of Amy has been a delight: “She’s more Rosie Webster than Sophie Webster! I’ve never played a dolly bird before, she even comes out with hair extensions!  “I’m such a tom boy in real life so that’s been great to take on because usually when you read a role you can see yourself in the character, but I loved that Amy is so different to me.

“I’ve never played a character like this before.”

Samantha adds: “Denise is quite mumsy at the start, always putting everybody else before herself and it’s interesting to see the change that happens during the course of the play, especially when she gets her hands on the money!”

 

The appeal of The Syndicate is that there won’t be a theatregoer anywhere in the UK who hasn’t dreamt of winning the lottery, how they would react if their numbers came up and, of course, what they would spend their winnings on.  For Gaynor it’s easy: “I’d love to open a Buddhist centre in Yorkshire. They have them in London but we need somewhere for people to go in Yorkshire!” 

 

Meanwhile Brooke dreams of “buying a giant house with my girlfriends and moving everyone in, but now with all the kids I’m not sure that would be a great idea!”

But Samantha is more philosophical: “I know this might sound really glib but I have everything I need, I’ve got a roof over my head, food on the table and everyone is healthy.  “I’m not into designer clothes and things like that. But I suppose if I won the lottery I’d buy a place abroad. “But this play is a reminder to be careful what you wish for. “With money comes greed and then a sense of desperation about what you’re willing to do to keep it.”

 

The Syndicate tours the length of the UK, visiting many of the UK’s top venues including Kay and Gaynor’s home town of Leeds, Richmond, Norwich, Newcastle, New Brighton, Salford, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Sheffield, Shrewsbury, Hull, Glasgow, Birmingham Bradford and Cardiff.  For theatre newcomer Oliver it’s a daunting schedule, but luckily he’s got his mum Gaynor on hand as someone experienced to turn to for advice.As well as directing the production, Gaynor is set to join the stars on stage, playing the role of the lottery representative, who, in honour of her mum, she has called, ‘Kay’. And while some might not like working with their parents, for Oliver it’s a chance to learn from the best. “She’s an amazing actress and is absolutely killing it in her directing role, so to be able to work alongside her and learn from her is just an utter privilege. “I just feel very lucky to have someone of her experience and talent coaching me through this. “I really want to make her proud.”

 

For Brooke it’s not the workload that worries her, it’s how she’s going to juggle her home life with sons Mexx, four, and Monroe, two, who she shares with husband-to-be, West Bromwich Albion footballer Kean Bryan, 26. “I’ve no idea!” she laughs. “You might well see two extra faces on stage with me one night! “Many of the shows are not too far from home so I will try and go back as much as possible, like in Leeds, I should be able to be home to take the kids to nursery and then get to work.

“It’s very different from my days at Corrie when I’d walk in, go get my hair and make-up done, someone would hand me my clothes and I’d pop on set. “It’s completely different but that’s also why I’m so excited for it.”


Tickets available here.



 

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