REVIEW: The Steamie – King’s Theatre, Glasgow
There’s a nostalgia for and great expectations of any production of Tony Roper’s Glasgow classic, The Steamie, and audiences can rest assured that this 30th anniversary production does the much-loved work complete justice.
Hogmanay, a Glasgow wash house. The race is on to get the laundry done before the midnight bells. As the 1940s give way to a new decade, the four women: Dolly (Libby McArthur), Mrs, Culfeathers (Mary McCusker), Margret (Carmen Pieraccini) and Doreen (Fiona Wood) chew the fat, share the details of their lives and provide much-needed support to one another as they reflect on their hard lives, their hopes and dreams, and their often, useless men.
Heralded for its reflection of real Glasgow women’s lives, the camaraderie between these women delivers as many laughs as tears, a more perfectly pitched piece of writing you would be hard to find. Roper is a master manipulator of your feelings: just as the sentimental tears roll down your cheeks, a killer comic line is delivered so precisely that your emotions are tugged in completely the opposite direction.
Fans will be glad to know the now legendary Galloway’s mince routine is still as hysterical as is always was, as are Dolly’s peat bath purge and the imaginary telephone conversation, iconic scenes that have a firm place in Scottish theatre goers hearts.
That a play about a public wash house, set in a time when a sense of community and neighbourliness still existed, a world that is beyond the ken of a vast portion of the audience, still has the ability to pack out a two week run in a theatre is testament to the quality of the writing. Roper’s expert grasp on the rhythms of his native tongue, make this play as sharp today as it has ever been. Nostalgic it may be, and Glaswegian to its very core, however, the themes of friendship, loneliness and of womanhood transcend the years.
The roles are perfectly cast, these women deliver a masterclass in acting (and singing) and Roper’s own direction ensures it remains tight and true to the original.
You will be hard-pressed to find a work that tugs at your heart strings and equally make your heart soar. A classic, and deservedly so, this 30th anniversary production is simply unmissable.