Review: 30th anniversary of The Steamie at the King’s Theatre

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A tribute to the mammies and grannies of bygone Glasgow, The Steamie is a classic and timeless comedy, masterfully blending Scottish humour with the touching sentimentality and drunken nostalgia that comes with Hogmanay.
With side-splitting laughs from the get-go, The Steamie’s joyous, light-hearted patter builds to a crescendo of hilarity with the mystery of Mr Culfeathers’s dinner – is it his wife’s mince he loves or is it the tatties?

Mary McCusker is witty and loveable as the old Mrs Culfeathers and her slow burn, repetitive, forgetful telling of the Galloway’s mince story has the audience in stitches as she encapsulates the classic, dighted, elderly relative every family, or at least every Scottish family, has.

Set in a vibrant but gritty 1950s Glasgow in a public washhouse on December 31, The Steamie is back for a run at The Kings Theatre until November 4, celebrating 30 years of roaring success and countless curtain calls.

Written and directed by Tony Roper, the first performance of this iconic comedy-drama stage play was performed in Glasgow in 1987 and has been making audiences laugh, cry, and reminding everyone of their own teetering old grannies ever since.

Carmen Pieraccini is faultless as Magrit, the hilarious, feisty, no-nonsense tough bird who shamelessly doles out the insults and dishes the dirt as she scrubs it off her own washing as well. Fiona Wood, too, is superb as the sweet and naive Doreen, the youngest of the bunch, who dreams of one day having her own house phone, television, and, the mark of luxury, an indoor toilet. T

he pair create a brilliant chalk and cheese friendship with Doreen being cute as a button with her head high up in the clouds while Magrit is keenly witty and hardy but still looks out for her pals.

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Accompanied by music seamlessly incorporated by David Anderson, The Steamie resembles the excitement and giddiness of getting geared up for a big night out. But instead of putting in their rollers, looking out their good frocks, and putting their slap on, the ladies of the washhouse are scrubbing away at their washing boards, trying to get the last bit done before the new year.

Libby McArthur is hysterical as chatterbox and steamie gossip Dolly who has no qualms about stripping off down to her drawers and giving herself a bath in the sink when she suspects the black water at the baths she used – six months before – were in fact just dirty from all the people who’d be in it before her.

The not-so-handy handyman Andy (Steven McNicoll) also makes several mumbled, musical appearances on Hogmanay night to sneak a wee dram from the women who all have their husband’s carry out for the festivities stashed in amongst the washing overflowing from their prams. Unsurprisingly, Andy soon ends up worse for wear and in typical Glesgy style starts singing unrecognisable songs before conking out in from of the sinks before the bells even give their first chime.

Roper expertly creates a plethora of Glasgow patter, relevant to audience members young and old, while keeping the heart, comradery, and fierce friendship that brings the material to life. In a touching moment as lonely old Mrs Culfeathers breaks down when talking about missing her wains who are all grown up and living far away, Roper tugs at our heart strings and proves that The Steamie is emotional and sentimental as well as backing a punch of Glesgy banter.

While the play is set in a Glasgow of days gone by, The Steamie will never get old.

Find details of the final performances of The Steamie here.

Writer and director Tony Roper, centre, with some of the Glasgow 30th Anniversary cast

Writer and director Tony Roper, centre, with some of the Glasgow 30th Anniversary cast

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