Review: The Steamie by Leitheatre

A national institution of a play that feels like a museum piece

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Published 10 Aug 2018

The Steamie is a national institution so beloved that most Scots will have had no shortage of opportunities to see it performed. Residents of other countries won't have had the same privilege, but one wonders what they would get out of a largely narrative-free broad comedy written in an unfamiliar dialect. It resonates with its admirers on a largely sentimental level.

This particular production from Leitheatre is professional and well realised, performed with an authentic, working-class integrity. Should any Fringe-goers specifically yearn to see The Steamie, then this will leave them satisfied. Beyond that, it's business as usual in the Carnegie Street wash house as a group of its regulars see in the new year together.

One is young, two are middle-aged and another is old. There is a man who supervises the facilities or something, I don't know. For just short of two hours, this eclectic group indulges in light-hearted banter, only occasionally touching upon darker aspects of their lives. The elderly character, for example, misses her fully grown children, while all are shown to be weary of constant domestic labour.

When the play debuted in 1987, its 1950s setting chimed with its audiences' first hand experiences. Thirty years on, our nostalgia has dimmed and we're left with a museum piece. This production does nothing to reinvigorate Tony Roper's work, merely dusting it off with love and care.