Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Steamie

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


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