REVIEW: The Syndicate – Lyceum Theatre – Sheffield


Kay Mellor’s final stage play, “The Syndicate”offers  a blend of comedy and drama based on her popular BBC TV series. Despite the promising premise and a talented cast, the production struggles to fully capture the depth and nuance one might expect from Mellor’s work.

Samantha Giles, as Denise, delivers a delightful performance, bringing a unique charm to the show. Her comedic timing and ability to infuse believability into an otherwise obscure character make her a standout. Giles’s portrayal of Denise is endearing and often serves as the comedic backbone of the play. Her scenes are filled with a natural humor that feels both effortless and genuine, showcasing her proficiency and skill as an actress. The audience is drawn to her every time she steps on stage, making her character memorable and likable.

Similarly, Brooke Vincent as Amy provides a strong, compelling portrayal, particularly shining in the second act. Vincent adeptly embodies Amy’s obsessive nature, making her character’s quirks and intensity both believable and engaging. Her performance is marked by a depth that brings out Amy’s complexities, especially as the story unfolds and the stakes rise. Vincent’s portrayal adds a layer of emotional resonance to the play, drawing the audience into Amy’s personal journey and struggles.

However, despite the talent on stage, the plot feels simplistic and lacks nuance. The characters and themes often come across as if they were pulled straight from a soap opera or a childhood drama, which diminishes the impact of the story. The play, titled “The Syndicate,” fails to delve deeply into the lives of the syndicate members, reducing them to simple, one-dimensional characters. This limited scope of storytelling means that some character developments in the second act feel rushed and lack the weight they should carry, especially given the significant issues they raise.

Bretta Gerecke’s set design is visually appealing, with the supermarket setting particularly well-constructed. The detailed and realistic set helps ground the play’s premise, providing a familiar and relatable backdrop for the characters’ interactions. However, other scenes suffer from limiting proportions and occasional sightline issues, which can detract from the audience’s immersion in the story.

Gaynor Faye’s direction feels methodical, mirroring the pacing of a television show, and often emphasizes the narrative’s resemblance to that genre. The use of blackouts between transitions seems unnecessary and disrupts the flow of the play. Faye’s approach to direction may have benefited from more fluid and dynamic transitions, enhancing the theatrical experience rather than reminding the audience of its TV origins.

The choice of songs and overall aesthetic of the show create a confusing sense of time. While the 80s or 90s vibe is strong, frequent references to modern technology disrupt this setting, as if an aesthetic of ‘the North’ has been confused with ‘the past.’ This anachronistic blend can be jarring and may leave the audience unsure of the intended time period.

The direction of certain characters is questionable, particularly when compared to the dialogue. Some roles come off as absurd caricatures, undermining the dramatic potential of the plot. This is especially evident in the portrayal of the police officer, where Mellor’s dialogue feels at odds with the character’s actions. The struggle to create believable scenarios within the confines of the staging means the action and momentum felt in the first act begin to slow down in the second, causing the narrative to falter.

Despite these flaws, “The Syndicate” remains watchable. It is not particularly complex, but it has its moments of humor and was well-received by the audience. While the narrative momentum falters in the second act, the show still manages to entertain, thanks to its strong performances and occasional laughs.

Overall, “The Syndicate” is a mixed bag. It has its charms and comedic moments, primarily due to the performances of Giles and Vincent, but it falls short in delivering the depth and cohesion that Kay Mellor’s fans might expect. A three-star experience that entertains but does not quite hit the jackpot.
The Syndicate plays at the Sheffield Lyceum until the 15th of June before continuing it’s nationwide tour.

Photography from Dave Hogan.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *