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‘I feel a responsibility to keep her legacy going’: Gaynor Faye on bringing late mum Kay Mellor’s lottery drama to the stage

© Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/ShutterstockGaynor Faye stars in and directs her mum Kay Mellor’s last play, The Syndicate.
Gaynor Faye stars in and directs her mum Kay Mellor’s last play, The Syndicate.

In a career stretching back more than 30 years, Gaynor Faye’s current production might mean more to her than anything she has done before.

Not only is she making her directorial debut and acting alongside her son, most importantly she is delivering the show her mum, Kay Mellor, had been working so hard on before her untimely passing two years ago.

Gaynor is helming the stage version of Kay’s hit BBC series, The Syndicate, which is currently on tour and coming to Glasgow next month.

“It’s an honour for me to be able to do this show,” Gaynor said. “I started out thinking I was only going to direct it but I’m in it now too, which is great. I really just wanted to carry on my mum’s legacy and keep her words alive.”

The Syndicate on stage

Based on the first series of the TV show, which ran for four seasons, it tells the story of a group of supermarket workers whose lottery numbers come up just as their jobs are under threat.

The story looks at the good and bad that comes from winning a life-changing amount of money.

It’s the sort of real-life drama shining a light on the lives of ordinary people that Kay was known for.

Gaynor with her late mum, Kay Mellor. © Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
Gaynor with her late mum, Kay Mellor.

“My mum always had a knack of writing things that everybody knew and talked about – topics like weight with Fat Friends, pregnancy with In The Club, animals in The Chase and the lottery with The Syndicate,” Gaynor continued.

“Every character in the show is relatable and each one has a different reason for why the money changes them for the better, or for the worse, and so it’s a real reflection of society. She explores greed and what it does to people in a very clever and funny way.

“My mum was always very good at putting across moral messages without banging them home. People come to me after the show and say, ‘Oh, that’s really made me think if I want to win the lottery or not’, and that’s what she always wanted to do – to entertain people but to also make them think.”

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“We do have a responsibility when we’re telling stories,” Gaynor said. “Especially if they are real-life stories. Mum was always so good at reflecting real people.”

For The Syndicate, Gaynor says her mum had read a newspaper story about a member of a lottery syndicate who hadn’t paid in and potentially wasn’t going to receive their share of the winnings.

“She would find these little nuggets and say, ‘Ohhh, imagine that. This is exciting!’” Gaynor smiled.

Plans for the stage version of The Syndicate were at an advanced stage when Kay died suddenly in 2022, just a few days after her 71st birthday. Gaynor was supposed to be co-directing the play with her mum, so decided to take on full duties to ensure the production made it to the stage in Kay’s vision.

“I was nervous at first because obviously my mum’s role is a huge one to fill. But she was a great mentor – I learned from working with her and watching her. I’d been on set with my mum many times when she directed and she also directed me in Band Of Gold.

“I thought, I’ll just do what she did. Also, as an actress, I know how I like to be directed. And I had a great script and I surrounded myself with great actors, production team and crew, so I knew I’d be alright. We had a lot of fun and it was really collaborative. I enjoyed it, and it’s given me the bug to direct again.”

Mum’s legacy

Former Corrie and Emmerdale star Gaynor, 52, plays Kay (a nod to her mum), the lottery rep who delivers the life-changing cheque to the syndicate. It’s surely one of the most fulfilling jobs around.

“I relished the importance of her role. She’s obsessed with this incredible status she holds and the fact that she holds the key to unlocking this enormous amount of money. She plays on it a bit, which is great fun to do. She’s a slightly elevated character.

“She is dotted throughout the show. She’s great to play and it’s also a good role because I get to watch and listen to the rest of the show when I’m not on stage.”

Gaynor Faye as Kay in The Syndicate. © Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/Shutterstock
Gaynor Faye as Kay in The Syndicate.

The stellar cast includes Brooke Vincent, who played Sophie Webster in Coronation Street from 2004 to 2019, and former Emmerdale star Samantha Giles, who played Bernice Blackstock in the soap for 14 years.

Gaynor said: “So many people wanted to be in it because it’s my mum’s last play. To be in anything by Kay Mellor is such a huge thing because everyone knows she’s an amazing storyteller and writes amazing scripts. It was a case of picking the cream of the crop, which I really feel we have done.

“Brooke Vincent is amazing and keeps finding new bits for her character Amy and Sam Giles is a comedy genius. We have lots of great actors in the show.”

Another cast member is Oliver Anthony, Gaynor’s son, ensuring there are three generations of the family attached to the project.

“He was involved in the original workshops my mum did a few years ago and I know she always wanted him in it,” mum-of-two Gaynor continued. “I wanted to keep everything as per her wishes, and she would have loved to see him on stage.

“He feels the same responsibility as I do to keep my mum’s legacy going and to make sure her last stage play is a success and as good as it can be. But he didn’t get off lightly!

“He calls me Gaynor when we’re working together, just as I called my mum Kay when we worked together. It’s something he’s grown up with, knowing that when we’re at work we call each other by our names so that everyone else feels comfortable around us.

“He probably got the short straw because I didn’t let him off and he wasn’t allowed to backchat! He had to get used to taking some criticism, but he’s good at taking notes on board and delivering. He kept a fun, upbeat atmosphere around rehearsals and the cast enjoy spending time with him.”

Coming to Glasgow

Gaynor has been thrilled by the reaction to the tour so far and is looking forward to bringing it to Glasgow, where she’s enjoyed plenty of visits in the past.

“This all started with an amazing script from my mum, but you never know until you’re on stage in front of an audience as to how it’s going to be received,” she said. “Fortunately, it’s been received well, which we’re delighted about. That’s what my mum was all about – she loved seeing people having a great night out watching her shows and leaving with a big smile on their faces.

“I can’t wait to come back to Glasgow and let everyone see my mum’s last stage show. I love Scotland and Glasgow is such a cool place. I have lots of friends in Glasgow, including Elaine C Smith, who I did the Calendar Girls tour with. She was in the third series of The Syndicate. I’m excited for her to see it.”

It’s important to Gaynor to continue honouring her mum’s legacy of work after this tour ends, and she says this might not be the last Kay Mellor production we see. She added: “There are things of my mum’s we are still working on, so watch this space. Her production company, Rollem, is still there and I’m keeping that going. My dad wants to keep everything going as well, so we’re doing the best we can.”

Gran Kay taught me a lot

Oliver Anthony as Jamie in The Syndicate. © Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/Shutterstock
Oliver Anthony as Jamie in The Syndicate.

Oliver Anthony, who is making his stage debut in The Syndicate, says it has been a privilege to learn under his gran Kay Mellor and mum Gaynor Faye.

“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 helped me learn the business both in front of the camera and behind. I have so many wonderful memories, every day beside her was a dream.

“To be involved with the stage show, and Gaynor, my mum, directing it, it just feels special,” explained Oliver, who had a role in series four of The Syndicate on BBC1.

“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 Jamie in the development workshops and read in the audition for many of these other amazing actors, so being on the other side of the audition process as an actor, and getting the part, is incredible.

“I want to prove I deserve my place in the show and give it my best shot. I’m grabbing this opportunity with both hands.”

The Syndicate, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, July 2-6,