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The Florians' production of The Steamie found the characters looking forward and into the past in Tony Roper's Glasgow-set classic

By Margaret Chrystall

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The Florians: The Steamie

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POISED between the New Year and the old, the four women in THE STEAMIE trying to get their washing done and home before the bells on Hogmanay, are doing what all of us do that night – peering into the future and looking back on the past.

In The Florians production of Tony Roper’s play set in a 1950s Glasgow wash-house, the four female characters are also perfectly spaced along ‘the ages of woman'.

Young wife Doreen (Alison Ozog) shared dreams of a modern, classier home with all mod cons; Dolly (Morna Eadie) is a mum who likes a drink and going out. Margit (Anne Bamborough) is older and has a dry wit that gave her many of the funniest lines. After the steamie, she’s planning a rare quiet time to herself at home, rather than wild partying. Long-suffering about her already drunk husband, she mercilessly describes his breath as “like a burst lavvie”.

The Florians in The Steamie. From left – Morag Barron as Mrs Culfeathers, Anne Bambolough as margie, Alan Macleod as Andy and Morna Eadie as Dolly. Alison Ozog played Doreen. Picture: Matthias Kremer
The Florians in The Steamie. From left – Morag Barron as Mrs Culfeathers, Anne Bambolough as margie, Alan Macleod as Andy and Morna Eadie as Dolly. Alison Ozog played Doreen. Picture: Matthias Kremer

Older woman Mrs Culfeathers (Morag Barron) with her shaky voice and knack for getting the wrong end of the stick, is determined to keep doing the work that is getting beyond her strengths to keep her and her husband going, as her two sons live far away and are no help.

She hasn’t even been introduced to her grandsons.

It’s everyday stuff. But with a cast that understood exactly what makes their characters tick, and a lightness of touch from director Caroline Nicol that allowed both the Glasgow humour and the pathos built into the two acts to shine, this was a five-star production.

It is also a play with themes of community and making the best of things and never taking life for granted.

They couldn’t have resonated more with an audience just through the trials and tests of coronavirus and lockdown.

Just because the reality for the women is getting their bare feet into zinc basins to stamp the dirt out of their washing doesn’t mean they can’t dream big dreams, like Doreen, of the day when she and her husband are in their new Drumchapel apartment with a view and “an inside lavvie” and are going “… to the opera tonight and I’ve dropped my tiara on the carpet and the pile is so thick I can hardly find it”.

The over-the-top fantasy is innocent fun with Alison Ozog, Anne Bamborough and Morna Eadie giving it lalldy as they let these dreaming pals let their imagination run riot.

But there’s no less power in Roper’s writing evoking an irresistibly long-gone picturesque and close community, brought to life in a wondering monologue by Mrs Culfeathers – Morag Barron movingly painting a past where the washing hung outside in long lines on Glasgow Green “…the men’s shirts and women’s dresses, they all had arms and in the wind they were all waving to each other… nobody seemed to be lonely then”.

The production created priceless, beautifully-timed banter – as in the Galloways mince controversy.

But there were also memorable moments of reflection, Doreen dreaming in a spotlight while the rest of the stage went dark before she sang Dreams Come True and, later the same device for Margit, stepping forward into the light for her ‘isn’t it wonderful to be a woman’ speech.

The songs Pals and When Dreams Come True in Act 1 and All The Best When It Comes in Act 2 make the most of the cast’s voices, including Alan Macleod as Andy, perfect as a foil for the women and the butt of their humour. The play-opening intro track Yakety Yak and, later Andy singing Me And My Girl and Rock-A-Bye-Your-Baby With A Dixie Melody set the nostalgic tone – as did Fiona Stuart’s piano.

A mention should go to prop coordinator Janet Russell for lovely touches, such as Dolly’s impressive bloomers!

And for those of us watching the production online, the camerawork by Catriona Russell, Matthias Kremer and Sean Stuart was slick with a range of angles that almost made you feel you were in the Florians’ Theatre with the rest of the crowd. It's lovely to be able to enjoy their work again. MC

The next chance to do that looks to be the return of The Vicar Of Dibley: The Second Coming, December 6-11. More: https://www.florians.org.uk/ Keep in touch on Facebook: @florianstheatre

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