The Steamie, set in a public wash-house on Hogmanay 1956, was written by Tony Roper and first performed in 1987. Many people (myself included) will fondly remember the 1988 Scottish television production. Since then, the Steamie has gone on to be one of the best loved Scottish plays of modern times.
This production from Quirky Pond Theatre Company is directed by Andy Corelli and with the help of a good strong cast brings to life again Steamie friends Doreen, Magrit, Dolly, Mrs Culfeathers and general handyman of the premises Andy.
To single out any one person on small theatre productions is always I think unfair, so I am not going to. This is a group effort and as well as some genuinely funny lines, everyone managed to re-create on stage some of the warmth that friendships like this generated.
This is at heart a women’s piece of theatre and that was reflected in the predominantly female audience in the theatre. Many in the audience obviously remembered visiting local “steamies” in their younger days and in the interval you could catch snippets of conversation of how fondly they remembered them and the friendships in them. All the cast tonight seem to have somehow captured the warmth of those memories on stage for their audience.
The Steamie is a comedy and Tony Roper wrote some fantastic dialogue here, but like the best of comedy, it also has a darker side that lies just below the surface if you scratch it.
The steamie was part of life for most working class families at one time. Despite people being in employment (often more than one family member), no matter how hard they worked, there was never enough for the luxuries of life, and certainly not expensive ones like washing machines. Every day was pretty much a struggle through to the next one. These women worked hard to bring up their families and keep their men-folk happy and meals always on the table when required. For many, the steamie was also their only time to themselves with other women and a chance to openly talk about their troubles in life. This is what the dialogue of “The Steamie” captures wonderfully.
This is comedy, yes, but not the slapstick sort, more the comedy of having to laugh at the grimness of what is around you at times, and the cast get that fine balance right here.
Review by Tom King