Review: The Steamie, Festival Theatre

It always boils down to the mince and tatties. That universal constant in Scottish cuisine which somehow encompasses comfort, culture and social standing all balanced precariously on a single fork.****

By Josie Balfour
Wednesday, 11th April 2012, 1:00 pm

If you’ve never found yourself listening to a discussion about the mince from the “good” butcher between the older women in your life, then it’s a fair bet that you’re a Trappist monk.

Of all the Scottish plays out there, it’s The Steamie that can be best compared to mince and tatties and not just for comfort value. The wash houses that make up the backdrop of this distinctly Glaswegian piece of entertainment may be long gone but that doesn’t mean the sentiment and the soul have disappeared from everyday life. Where women gather to work there will always be talk of the bairns, the men and what’s going to be for tea.

Staging The Steamie in the grand environs of the Festival Theatre feels a bit wrong at first, like your posh aunty tarting up her mince with a tin of Heinz beans. Yet the production fills the space beautifully, the simplicity of presentation and rhythm of the actors working creating a pleasing momentum.

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From the beginning the audience were involved in the drama, invested in the characters and howling with laughter as the night progressed, some even standing to applaud at the end.

Gelling well as an ensemble and sharing the stage easily, Kay Gallie, Jane McCarry, Anita Vettesse and Fiona Wood really get to grips with the core of each of their characters. The cast’s comic timing and able handling of the vernacular allowing for interesting insights into the relationships between the women.

Set on the last day of the year, Tony Roper’s tale of working class women and their washing should be at once a celebration and a sentimental swansong for a world that soon only our grandparents will remember. With Roper directing and songs by David Anderson, however, there is the addition of a certain amount of Glasgow bonhomie that a plain reading of the text can often miss, the production capturing perfectly the people’s penchant for a swally and a singalong in any circumstances.

Run ends on Saturday