REVIEW: Band of Gold at Cambridge Arts Theatre - sadly it’s got a bit tarnished

Band of Gold at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Band of Gold at Cambridge Arts Theatre - Credit: Archant

Band of Gold was a big television hit in the 1990s, watched by 15 million viewers. Rolling out the same characters in tired old story lines 25 years on cannot have the same magnetism.

The play is about the oldest profession and this production reminded us that acting can be an old profession too. The play seemed so stale.

Band of Gold was a big television hit in the 1990s, watched by 15 million viewers - but it's folly to roll out the same characters and put them in tired old story lines 25 years on and imagine that will do.

There is no punch here and no shock. To have impact, the play needs updating. Women in the sex industry today are more likely than ever to be controlled by vicious men and to be victims of addiction.

This play made it look as though they had choices. As though this was a career option - not some deep pit they had fallen into and couldn't get out of.

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The themes are hackneyed and, overall, the performances are weak. It feels as dated as a Whitehall Farce.

There are valliant efforts, Sacha Parkinson as Gina, the new recruit, forced onto the streets by debt, appears genuinely vulnerable and we feel for her.

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Kieron Richardson as her brutal husband Steve and Joe Mallalieu as the loan shark, whose clutches she has fallen into, are menacing.

Emma Osman as Carol, the sex worker who manages to rise above the indignities and is obsessed with keeping her flat clean, despite what goes on in it, gave a truly memorable and warm-blooded performance.

Prostitution is a terrible thing. Many people involved in it have been abused as children. They are abused youngsters who have grown up. Some are still children when they start on the streets, which is what inspired Kay Mellor to write the series.

This play almost sanitises what happens to them with the notion that they can just stop. Women on the streets are society's most vulnerable people - that's why once in a generation, some derranged monster who wants to kill women will seize on them - because they are the ones who are out there, unprotected and available.

The television series had time to develop the back stories of the characters and present them as rounded human beings. It's difficult to do that in a two-hour play and have a plot bringing all their stories together neatly with a beginning a middle and an end - so you end up with caricatures.

I'm not sure this play will tell audiences anything that tragically they don't already know.

Band of Gold is at Cambridge Art Theatre until Saturday, February 22.

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