Review: The Steamie - King's Theatre, Glasgow

The Steamie - 25th Anniversary Tour

A Glasgow institution in its own right, The Steamie is as Glaswegian as the Gorbals, the People's Palace, deep fried mars bars and the cone on the head of the Duke of Wellington's statue. This wonderful play is a slice of Glasgow's social history delivered eloquently and emotionally in true Glesga patter.

Written by Tony Roper with songs by David Anderson, the play is set on Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) in a 1950s public wash house (steamie) it focuses on four central characters: Dolly (Jane McCarry) , Doreen (Fiona Wood), Magrit (Anita Vettesse) and Mrs Culfeathers (Kay Gallie) as they try and finish their washing before the evening's festivities.

The whole cast is marvellous and make a formidable ensemble. Kay Gallie is truly heartbreaking as the hardy Mrs Culfeathers, Jane McCarry is perfectly cast as the chatty Dolly, Anita Vettesse injects spirit into Magrit and Fiona Wood encapsulates the youthful hope of Doreen. As the sole man in the production, Andy, Mark Cox provides light relief and a reflection of the male stereotypes projected by the women. He is particularly brilliant after having one too many seasonal drinks!

The Steamie is a stark reminder of how mechanical and technological innovation has evolved making life in the 21st Century worlds apart from the difficult lives these four women endure. Imagine dragging your washing down 4 flights of tenement stairs along to the steamie, washing and wringing it then taking it back the same way? We just stick it in a machine and, if we're lucky, into another to dry it without ever leaving the comfort of our own environment.

The play also highlights in particular that what Dolly, Doreen, Magrit and Mrs Culfeathers viewed as what could become a lonely, isolated existence has come to pass for many who moved from the communities that have been regenerated over the years. There isn’t the same sense of community now that these women feel and that is a great shame.

Tuesday night’s performance (1st May) marked the 25th anniversary of the very first performance of the piece. Speaking on stage afterwards, Tony Roper neatly summed up its success: “What makes a show special? The audience like it. Thank you for liking it.” His remarks were met by loud applause from the rapturous audience because it’s hard to merely “like” this piece. It’s a lovable piece of social commentary. I can't remember ever being in a theatre and laughing at a scene while the tears of sadness from the moment just before it were still rolling down my cheeks.

If you haven’t seen The Steamie make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to see this excellent glimpse into Glasgow of the past.

Until Sat 5 May
Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm
Wed, Thu & Sat  mats 2.30pm

Tue 22 – Sat 26 May
Tue – Sat eves  7.30pm
Sat mat 2.30pm

Tickets: £11 - £27
Box Office 0844 871 7648 (Bkg fee)