The Steamie at The King’s Theatre Edinburgh brings to life for all too short a run only until Saturday 11th November Tony Roper’s now 30 year old, and much loved comedy classic set in a Glasgow public wash-house on a Hogmanay in the 1950s.
Written and directed by Tony Roper with songs by David Anderson, this production lovingly brings to life our favourite characters who are all played with impeccable comedy timing by our cast of
Libby McArthur - Dolly
Carmen Pieraccini - Magrit
Fiona Wood - Doreen
Mary McCusker -Mrs Culfeathers
Steven McNicoll –Andy
To get to write something like “The Steamie” and create characters that the public take to their hearts and love so much is something very rare and very special, and Tony Roper obviously recognises that fact with the care and attention that this production has. Our cast not only bring to life his words, but somehow re-create the friendship, humour, and strength of Dolly, Magrit, Doreen, Mrs Culfeathers and Andy. Yes, for them, life was a daily struggle on the bottom rungs of the economic and social ladders of their society, but somehow with humour and spirits that never gave in, and if you ever started to weaken, there was always the outstretched helping hands of your friends to pull you through. In the world of our women, there is humour in the face of daily adversity helping them to cope, but there is also a darker side here of just how quickly this lifestyle makes you older than your years and makes you ache in your bones long before you should. There is also a grim acceptance that no matter how hard you might work, escape from all of this is virtually impossible. Tony Roper’s wonderful script and a cast on top form captured all of these elements perfectly tonight.
Like all the great stories, particularly comedies, there is far more than just humour in “The Steamie”. Underneath the laughter there is a little world of working class life and reality perfectly captured here, and although scholars could probably write volumes on the social and economic issues that are in this story, I am always convinced that what has made “The Steamie” such a well loved production is the warmth of our washer women. Anyone coming from a working class background will probably recognise at least a little of one of our women in a family member, friend, neighbour, or just someone from their childhood. “The Steamie” is loved because it reminds us of people that we ourselves love or have loved, and Tony Roper must have mixed a little magic in with his words when he wrote “The Steamie”.
This story does take us back to a time when daily life was far harder for many working class people, but when we revisit it, like our washer ladies, we forget the bad times and concentrate on the good memories. Modern labour saving devices along with social and economic changes has certainly made that daily life a lot easier, but there is something that we lost along the way, and somehow “The Steamie” re-captures a little of that indefinable and untouchable loss.
If anyone has any questions on how popular this story and its characters are, then an absolutely packed King’s Theatre is the answer, with barely a spare seat in the house, even the not too often used upper circle seats open and filled to cope with demand for tickets.
This production of “The Steamie” is simply perfect theatre. A wonderful script, much loved characters and a fantastic cast bringing everything to life. Everyone around me in the audience was having a wonderful time, enjoying what only theatre can really do - make them laugh, make them sad, and every emotion in between, but more importantly entertain them for a few hours and let them leave any troubles they may have behind them for a little while as a night out at the theatre works its own brand of uplifting magic.
Review by Tom King