Tuesday, July 23

The Syndicate – Hull New Theatre

Hull New Theatre was far from full on Tuesday evening, as it hosted the world premiere of Kay Mellor’s stage adaptation of The Syndicate, a BBC TV series that ran for four seasons.

As the curtain rose, a realistic stage setting showing the interior of a small supermarket greeted us, giving a colourful first glimpse of proceedings.

Manning the till is Denise (Samantha Giles of Emmerdale fame), a motherly figure who dutifully collects the lottery money each week for the syndicate she and her four co-workers have joined.

While Denise goes about her business serving customers, single mum Leanne (Rosa Coduri-Fulford) half-heartedly sweeps the floor.

This peaceful scene is interrupted by the arrival of shop manager Stuart (Benedict Shaw) who rushes in, barging into the manager’s office begging for a rise.

Stuart lives with his son, Jack, and his pregnant girlfriend Amy (Coronation Street’s Brooke Vincent), with his mother, who Amy doesn’t get along with at all.

Kindly manager, Bob (William Ilkley) although sympathetic to Stuart’s predicament, reveals all their jobs are at risk due to a takeover.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and Stuart’s debt-ridden younger brother, Jamie (Oliver Anthony), who is also in the syndicate, has the not-so-good idea of stealing the shop’s £6,000 takings.

Everything goes to plan when Bob leaves early feeling off-colour from eating an out-of-date pork pie, leaving Stuart to cash up.

Exuberant Jamie takes to the role of baddie with gusto, but things take a turn for the worst as the “robbery” is interrupted, leaving someone fighting for their life.

The next day, Denise announces the five have won £24m on the lottery, but their joy is tempered by the fact one of the syndicate lies comatose in hospital.

Meanwhile, Mercury Millions jackpot co-ordinator played by Jade Golding (unmissable in a bright orange trouser suit) puts the fear of God into one syndicate member.

As the enormity of the win sinks in, secrets are revealed, greed rears its ugly head, love is lost and gained; plus, there is a surprise marriage proposal. But for one, honesty turns out to be the best policy.

The Syndicate is the last stage play written by Kay Mellor, before her death in 2022 and this adaptation marks the directorial debut for Mellor’s daughter, Gaynor Faye, whose son plays the role of Jamie in the production.

We lived through many emotions with this talented cast, from financial worries, marriage woes, sibling jealousy, relationship break-downs, new-found love, violence and death.

But we also had humour, mainly from Anthony as younger brother Jamie, whose rags to riches transformation was hilarious to witness.

The aftermath of the violent robbery also has its amusing side in the form of the police inspector played by Jerome Ngonadi, whose swagger never failed to make us laugh.

Mellor’s clever script was admirably brought to life by all on stage on the night, helped by a stage setting that seamlessly changed from the shop to a labour ward to a luxury property, with just the dimming of lights.

The powerful, final scene of paper money falling silently on to a lone figure was in stark contrast to the energetic events played out during the production, meaning we were gripped until the very end.

I loved it and, judging by the rapturous applause in the theatre, I wasn’t the only one.

Running until Saturday, July 13th, 2024; 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinees on Thursday, 11th and Saturday, 13th. Tickets cost from £19. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 9th July 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.