When Gaynor Faye speaks of her latest theatre project, her voice doesn’t quite suggest life or death passion. But it very much underlines her commitment to honouring – and remembering the life of her late mum.

Faye’s mum is Kay Mellor, one of the most successful television writers Britain has ever produced, the talent behind phenomenal hits such as Band of Gold and Fat Friends. Kay also had a plan to bring her TV success story The Syndicate to the theatre stage. However, she passed away in 2022, aged 71. But now Faye, an actor/writer/director is charged with bringing the project to life. And to say this is a labour of love is rather like saying Mother Theresa didn’t mind looking after a few kids.

Faye, who starred in Coronation Street in the nineties, maintains it makes perfect sense to transfer The Syndicate onto the stage given the style and conviction of her mum’s writing. “My mum was really, really brilliant at keeping it real,” she explains. “She created these completely relatable characters in which audiences can see something of themselves. This was the case in the likes of TV drama hits such as Band of Gold. And what my mum was brilliant at was assembling a story with a moral, without banging the message home.”

Gaynor Faye with her mother Kay MellorGaynor Faye with her mother Kay Mellor (Image: free)

Kay Mellor also wrote for soap, revealing an acute understanding of the mindset of ordinary people. She cut her teeth on Albion Market before moving to Coronation Street and Brookside, revealing dialogue that homed in on the minutiae of people’s lives, the small detail which irked them or made them laugh. “Even when she wrote comedy lines for the likes of Curly (the binman) in Coronation Street, there was always a real truth to it.”

The Syndicate, which ran on BBC1 for four series from 2012, tells the story of five supermarket workers whose lottery syndicate numbers come up, just as their jobs and livelihoods are going down the toilet.

But then they are confronted with a new set of problems when vast fortunes arrive at their doorstep. Faye explains the attraction of the premise. “Everybody, globally, has at some point uttered the words ‘If I could only win the lottery’, and there is this assumption that if they win somehow it will make their lives complete. But this story considers the notion that yes, money can bring you lots of lovely things - but actually it can also reveal the side of people that isn’t so nice.”

Kay Mellor went back to Series One for her theatre play storyline. “She loved the idea of the two brothers feuding against each other, and looking at the supermarket workers and how the arrival of money affects them all differently. And yes, there is a moral message in her writing, but she doesn’t lay it on, she lets audiences work it out for themselves. And as a result, theatre goers are loving it. They’re laughing and crying, and that’s why working in theatre in a play like this is such a wonderful experience. When they come to see a Kay Mellor show being performed there is a real joy.”

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Gaynor Faye had been workshopping the stage play with her mum prior to her death, yet she admits it was daunting to take over from her mum as co-writer and director. “It really was scary to step into her huge shoes, but then I had her notes for the next draft, and I’d watched her direct so many times over the years - and I’d always wanted to direct.”

Yet, Leeds-born Faye also acts in the play, (playing the lottery representative) creating an added responsibility. “It’s only when it’s pointed out to me that I appreciate it is such a big deal. But I knew what my mum’s vision was and it meant I could add to that. And then we pulled a great cast and a production team together, and I know that she would be as happy with this production as I am.”

There is clearly an uncontainable joy in Faye’s voice as she speaks of making The Syndicate a stage reality. But does this daily association with her mum’s work, hearing her clever funny lines, her poignant soliloquies, remind of the incredibly sad loss? “Being around her work is a real comfort,” she says in soft, reflective voice. Listening to her words ever night helps keep her alive in my mind. That’s the best bit of the whole show.”

Also appearing in the play is Faye’s son Oliver Anthony. (Like his mother he chose a different surname in order to build a career absent of accusations of nepotism.) But isn’t it difficult to direct your son on stage? How does she switch from being at home one minute and saying to him ‘Can you please move your socks from under the bed?’ to a rehearsal studio where she’s instructing ‘Just listen to the line you’re being fed?’

Faye laughs. “Well, we’ve worked together for a long time. And at work he calls me Gaynor, as I used to call my mum Kay. She grins. “It’s not strange for us, but it’s strange for other people. And you know, if I get any backchat, I just give him The Look.”

Gaynor with the cast of The SyndicateGaynor with the cast of The Syndicate (Image: free)

It's The Look sons recognise as a warning. Not a withering, confidence-wrecking stare, but a look powerful enough to pull the miscreant into line? “Yes, that’s it,” she says, laughing.

Yet, while The Syndicate explores themes of avarice, hurt and betrayal, Faye reveals she wouldn’t take the chance on how a gamble may change her own life. “I’ve never bought a lottery ticket,” she reveals. “I’ve enjoyed the journey of working for anything I have in life. I got my first job at 17 and I used the money as a deposit to buy a little back-to-back house. And I’ve created my own winnings from an early age. I’m a classic Virgo. Save for a rainy day.”

Faye adds: “I feel so lucky to have had such a career, where I’ve been able to act and write - and bring up children at the same time. I do work hard though, and I’m a grafter, even if I do I feel work is a hobby. The career has also allowed me to do a couple of things outside the box, such as Dancing on Ice. (She was the winner of Series One).

But Gaynor Faye says that where she feels luckiest is in having Kay Mellor as a mum. “I feel very blessed with my life, not just in having an amazing mentor in my mum but also someone who taught me to enjoy the successes when they come along, because there is so much rejection in this business.”

Her voice swells as she considers the impact of the knowledge passed on. “Now, I get to enjoy that feeling every night when people come to see the show. I’m just so appreciative of it all.”

The Syndicate, Theatre Royal Glasgow, from July 2 – 6 also stars Brooke Vincent and Samantha Giles. Tickets: SyndicateThePlay.com