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Gaynor Faye on Directing and Starring in Kay Mellor's Final Play

Gaynor Faye on Directing and Starring in Kay Mellor's Final Play Gaynor Faye © Craig Sugden
What's on
April 2024
Reading time 6 Minutes

Leeds lass Gaynor Faye is bringing three generations together as she directs and stars in the stage adaptation of The Syndicate - her late mum Kay Mellor's final play, which is starring Gaynor's son

We spoke to Gaynor about her love for Yorkshire and how she's keeping her mum's legacy alive.

Gaynor describes herself as ‘a very patriotic Yorkshire girl’. ‘In fact, when I got told, as a young actress, that in order to make it as an actress I had to move to London, I made it my mission not to,’ she says. ‘And I’ve hopefully managed to succeed! It was knowing that, actually, I felt I was richer in life being from Yorkshire.’

She grew up in Leeds with a talented family and has fond memories of a creativity-infused childhood. ‘Obviously I grew up with a writer mum and my nana was also a storyteller so I was brought up around creativity,’ Gaynor explains. ‘I used to get told stories on a night, but not from a book, my mum used to make them up. For our summer holidays, instead of kids just roaming the streets and getting into mischief, she’d write us a play, direct it, and we’d use some of the props from the garage (she had a theatre company at the time). My dad would get all the props out on the patio at the back and we’d invite the neighbours round, charging them something like 50p. They’d bring a chair and we’d put a performance on at the end of the six-week holiday, and with the money we earned (and a little bit extra given to us by mum) we’d go to Lightwater Valley to celebrate. We were always encouraged to paint, to be creative and to make up stories. That was how my life was right from the early stages.’

The Syndicate Series One © BBC The Syndicate © Dave Hogan
The Syndicate rehearsals The Syndicate © Dave Hogan

When Gaynor left school her love for performing hadn’t wavered so she got her Equity card, changing her surname to Faye, and started out in a Christmas show on stage. ‘I was Sharon Christmas who blew the biggest bubbles the world had ever seen and I used to have to chew bubblegum and blow these huge bubbles,’ she laughs. Soon enough, Gaynor was swapping stage for screen having found her first big break in an eight-part series for the BBC, starring as Crystal in The Sharp End alongside Gwen Taylor and James Cosmo ‘which was amazing’, she tells us. ‘But my big highlight was getting Corrie [Coronation Street] and playing the iconic Judy Mallett. I loved her so much! After four years I left Wetherfield for Castlefield to play the fire-fighting, top striker Holly in Playing The Field and then onto super slimmers to play diet obsessed Lauren in Fat Friends. I feel so lucky to have played such varied characters and worked with so many incredible actors.’ Fat Friends was written by Gaynor’s mum Kay, and was a huge success – and viewers are still enjoying watching (or re-watching) it today on ITVX. It starred Gavin and Stacey favourites James Corden, Ruth Jones and Alison Steadman as well as Lisa Riley and the late Lynda Baron. It was such a hit that Kay later adapted the show into a stage musical.

‘My mum had this huge success with Fat Friends The Musical [on stage] and then she went on to do Band of Gold [the stage show], which is why I left Emmerdale (to go into that). That’s when I first started directing,’ explains Gaynor.

The Syndicate rehearsals The Syndicate © Dave Hogan

‘She asked me to be the resident director (who goes on tour with the show). She wanted to adapt another series of hers for the stage and she absolutely loved the first series of The Syndicate, and the relationship between the two brothers and the dynamic that they brought. The script was just brilliant. She was really excited! We did a workshop a couple of years ago in order to make sure the script worked, and she made some little changes, and she was going to bring it to the stage. It would’ve been last year that we would’ve toured with it and I was always going to assist her as the director, but sadly that wasn’t to be.’ Sadly, Kay passed away in 2022.

Gaynor decided, with the show’s producer Josh Andrews Productions, that they wanted to go ahead with The Syndicate play. ‘We wanted my mum’s words out there and to keep her legacy going,’ Gaynor explains. ‘I stepped on board and put my feet in her shoes and I’m trying to do what she would do. Knowing her vision from the workshop was great because I know what she had in mind and what she wanted, and our designer [Bretta Gerecke] was also involved, so sets-wise we also knew what her vision was. It was all there, all ready. I’m just making what her dream was come true – and that’s very special for me.’

Gaynor’s son Oliver Anthony has joined the cast for the world premiere UK stage tour of The Syndicate and he was also involved in the early workshops. Both Gaynor and Oliver starred in the later series of the TV show, but this is Oliver’s stage debut. 'I always knew that my mum envisaged him playing Jamie,’ says Gaynor. ‘He’s absolutely loving it. He’s nailed the character and he also knows instinctively what my mum wanted because he worked so closely with her himself. He’s an amazing writer (he’s got her genes). They used to do sketches with each other and I’d often walk into my mum’s house and there’d be Oliver and my mum all dressed up playing different characters,’ Gaynor laughs. ‘I think she would be delighted to know that both myself and Oliver are involved.’

The play is based on the first TV series (which starred Timothy Spall, Joanna Page and Leeds’s own Matthew Lewis) and tells the story of five supermarket workers whose lottery syndicate numbers come in, changing the lives and relationships of the syndicate members forever. Soap stars Brooke Vincent and Samantha Giles will be joining Gaynor and Oliver on stage.

Gaynor says audiences, especially those in Yorkshire, are going to be able to feel Kay’s humour. ‘She loved people, especially Yorkshire people. My mum was a real patriot (as I am) of Yorkshire, and everything about Yorkshire people, the warmth, the fun – you’ll be laughing and crying within a minute,’ says Gaynor. ‘That’s what she did so brilliantly. She knew how to write about emotion, and about fun and humour. If you come to see The Syndicate, you’re going to laugh, you’re going to cry and you’re going to walk out thinking “do I want to win the lottery or not?” Asking “would it change my life for the better or for the worse?” She always used to ask these questions to make people think, but at the same time you just have a great time on the journey. The Syndicate is a really fun night out. Get a syndicate of people to come and see The Syndicate. I think it’ll be great fun and a real water-cooler moment for you to talk about who you were rooting for and what you’d do if you won the lottery.’

Gaynor will continue honouring her mum’s legacy as creative director for Kay’s Leeds-based, writer-first television production company Rollem Productions (which produced The Syndicate and Fat Friends). But for now she says: ‘I can’t wait to get on stage with the show, and I can’t wait to get to the theatres all around the country, particularly the Yorkshire ones!’

Kay Mellor © Kyte Photography Kay Mellor © Kyte Photography
Oliver Anthony Oliver Anthony
Brooke Vincent  © Craig Sugden Brooke Vincent © Craig Sugden
Samantha Giles © Craig Sugden Samantha Giles © Craig Sugden

Your favourite place to walk in Yorkshire?
Roundhay Park.

An item you couldn’t live without?
My Gohonzon – it’s a Buddhist scroll.

An actor you’d love to work with?
Tim Curry.

Advice you’d give your younger self?
I would tell myself to have more fun!

Advice for budding actors?
My advice would be to take action. Be persistent, read books, watch dramas. Go to the theatre!

Why is it important for you to represent Yorkshire on screen and stage?
Yorkshire is my home. They say your home is where your heart is. Well, everything that’s written about Yorkshire usually has heart in the title, and there’s a reason for that. It’s because the people in Yorkshire are warm, passionate and funny. Film companies used to shoot the North in the South because people didn’t want to come up any further than Watford. People make you a cuppa tea in Yorkshire, they say love to you even though they don’t know you – it’s just such a wonderful county and I embrace it. I never wanted to leave, I still don’t want to leave, I’m very proud of where I’m from, my family are all from Yorkshire and I see no reason to live anywhere else.

Book your winning tickets to see The Syndicate at Newcastle Theatre Royal (8th–11th May), Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre (11th–15th June), Hull New Theatre (9th–13th July) and Alhambra Theatre, Bradford (16th–20th July) now. Gaynor will be performing in Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford. Find all the details at

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