REVIEW: Fortunes and folly in The Syndicate at Floral Pavilion

Based on the TV show of the same name by the late, great Kay Mellor (Fat Friends, Band of Gold), The Syndicate at the Floral Pavilion follows the fortunes (lottery-based or otherwise) of five supermarket employees who learn that their company has been bought out.

This staged version, featuring Mellor’s daughter Gaynor Faye and a brace of sudsy stars from the Northern soaps, attempts to cover a lot of ground.

Faced with potential loss of employment, the syndicate of shopworkers are thrown into turmoil and none more so than brothers Stuart and Jamie (the latter played with positively Gallagher-esque swagger by the excellent Oliver Anthony) who have money and mafia problems respectively.

This blow proves the impetus to do something really stupid. And dangerous. It’s only after they’ve done the stupid and dangerous thing that they discover they’ve won the lottery and the stupid and dangerous thing was entirely unnecessary. Hence, most of the drama that takes place is actually incidental to the actual lottery plotline.

Yet Mellor makes the device work hard, using it as a way to both demonstrate irony and unite a disparate collective of characters. Themes of media attention, wanted and unwanted publicity and the damaging effects of this, the bedrocks of relationships and whether or not money makes us happy are all touched upon.

A secret is outed, a life is almost lost and then saved, there are one or two engagements and a funeral, some relationships are cemented, others crumble. Some people do the right thing, others don’t and, by and large, everyone gets their just deserts.

There is also a technicality about the mechanics of who is eligible for the win but it’s an absurdism that doesn’t bear scrutiny and is there to highlight the cracks in the brothers’ relationship.

So it’s a lot for one evening and the casualty of trying to cover quite so much ground is probably with the character of Leanne, who is never truly convincingly filled out.

All members of the cast, however, were wonderful, with the script giving them authentic dialogue, peppered with pathos and humour, to get their teeth into. If Brooke Vincent’s Amy, Stuart’s appalling partner, is a bit pantomime, she plays it with great relish.

The Syndicate is at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton, until Thursday, 16 May.

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