Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy 4 stars It would be so easy to make a mess of Tony Roper’s classic wash-house set comedy. For all the Galloway’s mince routine, the make-believe telephone call and other set-pieces in this loving study of post Worlds War Two working-class women have become the stuff of popular theatre legend, one off-kilter interaction is all it takes to destroy the comic rhythms that make such moments so hilarious.
Fortunately, Roper’s own twenty-fifth anniversary production is flying from the off, as Anita Vettesse’s Magrit, Jane McCarry’s Dolly, Fiona Wood as Doreen and Kay Gallie’s Mrs Culfeathers present a pan-generational portrait of women at work and play on one very lively Hogmanay between the sheets.
Beyond the beautifully observed knockabout sentimentalism, there are moments of pure pathos, as it’s only with hindsight that Doreen’s dream of a flat in Drumchapel can be recognised as the beginning of the attempted break-up of inner-city communities. As much it taps into the period its set in, Roper’s play also says much about the 1980s that sired it, when ideas of sisterhood trickled down the class scale in ways previously unacknowledged.
This is what gives The Steamie it’s heart as well as the women a dignity that goes beyond their common touch. Watching the quartet sing in raucous harmony as they pound out the dirt from their blankets in a row of mucky sinks, it’s as if four Glasgow nymphs have been reborn some celestial vineyard. It’s an image to treasure.
The Herald, March 26th 2012