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Gaynor Faye, Brooke Vincent, Samantha Giles and Oliver Anthony chat about starring in Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate, which comes to the Midlands in June...

The Syndicate was a family affair long before it arrived on television in 2012, complete with a cast of famous faces.

Written and produced by ‘titan of TV’ Kay Mellor, her daughter, actress Gaynor Faye, was the series’ script editor.

“I just knew that it was going to be a hit,” Gaynor recalls. “She captured the brothers, the family, the whole arena of what winning the lottery and such a substantial amount of money brings people - both the good and the not so good!”

The first series was adapted for the stage by Kay in what proved to be her final venture into theatre before her death in 2022. 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.

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

The play 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 is for certain: the win of a lifetime will change their lives, loves and relationships forever...

Adding to the family feel of The Syndicate is Gaynor’s son, Oliver Anthony, who will play the part of Jamie.

Oliver believes that having three generations of one family involved in the production brings a unique experience to audiences: “There’s real heart to this show and 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.”

While he’s no stranger to the Syndicate story - having starred in series four of the BBC drama - Oliver is making his theatre debut as Jamie.

“I’ve been a part of this story since Kay 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.”

After so much time playing Jamie during casting, what is it about the character that appeals to Oliver so much?

“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.”

For actresses Brooke Vincent and Samantha Giles, 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 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.”

Samantha, meanwhile, was looking for a new challenge after recently leaving the role of Emmerdale’s Bernice Blackstock, a part she’d played on and off for 26 years.

“A lot of people are only used to seeing me as Bernice, who is this glamorous person. My Syndicate character of Denise is the polar opposite!

“She’s a bit on the frumpy side and 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 who reflect how ordinary people live.”

As veterans of TV drama, having navigated the fast pace of Soapland for so many years, Samantha and Brooke will surely find taking to the stage in front of a live audience a walk in the park... won’t they?

Brooke 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!

“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.”

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 the part has been great to take on, because usually when you read a role you can see yourself in the character. I love that Amy is so different to me.”

Samantha is just as enthusiastic about the character she plays: “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!”

Part of 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. So how would Brooke and Samantha react if their numbers came up?

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!”

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 shows at Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, from Tuesday 18 to Saturday 22 June, and then at The Alexandra, Birmingham, from Tuesday 25 to Saturday 29 June