Looking Good Dead: Leeds actress Gaynor Faye stars in thrilling new murder-mystery play at Leeds Grand Theatre
Leeds actress Gaynor Faye stars in Looking Good Dead. Ahead of its Leeds Grand Theatre premiere, she speaks to Abbey Maclure about the role and saving our theatres.
When Gaynor Faye can hear pin-drop silence while performing in Peter James' gripping new play, she knows she has the audience on the edge of their seats.
Looking Good Dead, a theatre adaptation of James' best-selling thriller of the same name, will land at Leeds Grand Theatre from September 6-11.
The show follows Tom Bryce (played by Eastenders star Adam Woodyatt) who inadvertently becomes a witness to a vicious murder, placing him and his family in grave danger.
Gaynor, of Emmerdale, Coronation Street and The Syndicate fame, plays the role of Kellie Bryce, Tom's hard-working but struggling wife who is trying to keep the family together.
"It’s a brilliant show full of twists and turns," she told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"It's all in the writing, Peter says he loves the ‘gasp’ moment in his shows. What’s so wonderful about live theatre is that you know immediately if you’ve got the audience in the palm of your hand.
"When they’re silent and you can hear a pin drop, you know they’re watching and waiting. Everybody loves a whodunnit and I love listening to the audience when they’re trying to guess who it is.
“When that realisation happens, it’s a great moment. If you watch Line of Duty - then you’ll love this.”
Gaynor's last stage role came just before the pandemic when she starred in Band of Gold, the theatre adaption of her mum Kay Mellor's hit 1990s series.
It's been 18 long months without live performance, and although she's had her stellar TV career to keep her busy, Gaynor is thrilled to be back in front of a live audience.
The 49-year-old added: "I was very nervous coming back, but I’m pleased about that - it shows I care.
"I’m a real believer that when you stop having nerves, you should give up. You have to have that adrenaline pumping through in order to give a really good performance.
“The response has been fantastic. The audience really love it and as an actor that’s what you want - to have a show that people love to watch.
"It’s got humour in it as well, which is great. The audience not only gets suspense but a bit of light relief.”
Gaynor is best known for her TV roles, playing Judy Mallett in Coronation Street in the 1990s and Meghan Macey in Emmerdale from 2012 to 2019.
But she has received acclaim for her presence on stage, and her partnership with Adam, and she has prepared to play Kellie Bryce in much the same way as she gets into TV characters.
"Kellie has got issues and it's no secret that the family are going through a bit of a struggle," Gaynor added.
"But she’s a hard-working woman and she’s trying to make things work with her family.
“When you’re preparing for the part, you always go through the same operation. For this part, my character has a drink problem, so I had to look into that and see how women function with drink issues.
"You also draw on your own life issues and try to put them into your character. Theatre is about endurance, you have to keep it fresh for yourself, while TV is fast-paced but you don’t have rehearsals and the time to get to grips with your character."
The world-premiere tour of Looking Good Dead is making its way across the UK, but performing at Leeds Grand will be extra special for Gaynor, who still lives near the city.
She's urged people to get back out to enjoy the thriving arts and culture scene the city has to offer.
“I love Leeds, I’m a real patriot for the city," she said.
"I bang about Leeds all the time to anyone who will listen. I absolutely can’t wait to get back, it’s a wonderful theatre and it will be wonderful to be in my hometown. And I know that people will love it, they’re very supportive.
“People from Leeds just want to get out and enjoy themselves, and they let their appreciation be known straight away. They let us know if they don’t like it too!
"The theatres are fantastic - The Grand, Leeds Playhouse, City Varieties - we’ve got so many wonderful venues.
"But it’s the people that make it a fantastic place.”
Gaynor's rallying cry to save our theatres
Theatres were among the first venues to close when the Covid pandemic hit - and one of the last to reopen.
Now productions like Looking Good Dead are breathing life back into Leeds venues and Gaynor wants everyone to experience the thrill of the theatre again.
She said: “The arts have been so badly hit and theatre has been off the agenda for many people.
“It doesn’t just affect producers and actors, it has a massive knock-on effect - from people who work at the theatre, to the restaurants around it.
“I think people are bored to death of tele. It’s been a saviour through lockdown, but it’s wonderful to be able to see something live now.
“If you want theatres to stay open and support the arts, then get to the theatre. It’s about supporting the city.”
Who is Gaynor Faye?
Gaynor is one of Corrie's best loved stars, born in 1971 to talented Leeds scriptwriter Kay Mellor and Anthony Mellor.
She got her big break on BBC comedy Sharp End, before joining Coronation Street in 1995 as the new neighbour in Weatherfied.
Gaynor has since appeared on a number of her mum's hit dramas, including Playing The Field, Fat Friends and The Chase, before joining Emmerdale from 2012 to 2019.
The multi-talented actress has wowed audiences on the stage, too, starring in the theatre adaptations of Calendar Girls in 2009 and Band of Gold last year.
Gaynor shared her advice for budding young performers who are looking for their big break in the industry.
She said: "It is hard to break into the industry now as a lot of people want to do it, but there are so many avenues you can go down.
“You have to have the passion to want to do it; not just to become a celebrity, but to view a career in drama, theatre, television or the arts.
"Our phones have incredible cameras on them - you can write something yourself, film it yourself and get it out there. You have it all there, so take your career into your own hands and get on and do it."
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