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The cast of Kay Mellor's The Syndicate.

The Syndicate: A Family Affair

Bringing three generations together, star of stage and screen Gaynor Faye and her son, Oliver Anthony, are to join the cast of the world premiere UK stage tour of Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate. Ahead of its arrival in Leeds next month, we heard from Gaynor , and fellow actors Samantha Giles and Brooke Vincent, about bringing Kay’s play to life.

Written by Guest Author

Adapting the TV show

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

Gaynor says: “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 people – both good and the not-so-good! My mum writes for people, not accolades. The people who watch her shows are the people she relates to, the people she champions and admires. She encapsulates them and shows what it is to be a normal person. At times it’s funny, 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 last year.

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 Faye in a white shirt and beige jumper smiling at the camera with her hand on her hip

Gaynor Faye, director and star of The Syndicate. Credit Craig Sugden.

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.

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.

On joining the cast, Gaynor says: “I’m thrilled to be joining Brooke Vincent, Samantha Giles and the rest of this stellar cast on stage. The Syndicate is very close to my heart for so many reasons and it’s fitting that this production is a real family affair, as we welcome Oliver to the company too. I know that he will make an amazing addition to the cast.”

The characters

For actors 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 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.

Samantha Giles crossing her fingers wearing big glasses and a blue tabard, and holding up a lottery ticket.

Samantha Giles as Denise, hoping for her lottery win. Credit Craig Sugden.

Brooke, 31 and mum of two, 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.”

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 tomboy 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 play, especially when she gets her hands on the money!

Brooke Vincent in a blue top and leather trousers crossing her fingers and holding up a lottery ticket.

Brooke Vincent as Amy, keeping her fingers crossed for a big win. Credit Craig Sugden.

Winning the lottery

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 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.

Samantha Giles in a smart black dress cheering surrounded by cash.

Samantha Giles celebrating! Credit Craig Sugden.