Eyemouth cast hopes to wash away January blues with Scottish classic

Eyemouth variety group prepare to stage glaswegian comedy drama 'The Steamie'
Eyemouth variety group prepare to stage glaswegian comedy drama 'The Steamie'

EYEMOUTH and District Variety Group are hoping to banish the New Year blues with Scottish favourite ‘The Steamie’.

First staged in 1987 and later adapted for STV to great aplomb, the play was penned by Rab C Nesbitt actor Tony Roper and follows the lives of a group of 1950s Glasgow women washing their clothes in a public washhouse. It presents a different type of challenge for the talented variety group, who have become synonymous for their big song and dance numbers. But director Pauline Grieve feels it is one they’re definitely up for.

“Let’s face it January is a bit of a dreich month all round,” she said. “We want to cheer everyone up and ‘The Steamie’ surely will.

“It’s about a group of four women who are together for Old Year’s Night. They’ve been and got carry outs, so they’re having a wee tipple and they get to know each other.

“There are some very strong characters in the play and there were quite a few people who auditioned for the roles. I had an idea of who I could see in each part. There is one older lady, two of a certain age, and one who’s just been married.”

Like Pauline, the four local ladies playing the central roles of Margrit, Dolly, Doreen and Mrs Culfeathers have a real enthusiasm for the play, as does Jim Watt, the only male in the cast.

“I think it says a lot that three months on from starting rehearsals we’re still laughing out loud at some bits,” said Andrea Thacker who plays Doreen.

“My character is very much of the new generation compared to the other ladies in the washhouse. She’s very into the mod-cons whereas as the others are a little stuck in their ways.”

Mrs Culfeathers is the first role Janice Walker has taken on with the variety group for many years and is very different to her last foray onto the stage in panto.

“I’m really enjoying being back with the variety group again,” she revealed. “It’s been a while, but I know all of the other girls and my character is a fun one to play. She’s nice but dim.”

Maureen Gillie was last seen in fine form as Madame Grande Bouche in ‘Beauty and the Beast’, but as Dolly she doesn’t have to be quite so refined.

“Shes like to talk all the time,” she joked. “‘The Steamie’ is a very different show for the group to do and to be part of as there is a huge amount of dialogue to learn. It’s also important that we’ve got great camaraderie as we rely on each other so much on stage.”

Although not quite a Glaswegian, hailing from nearby Whitburn, May Jappy has a genuine Weegie twang and says her character Margrit is a great one to play.

“She’s very fiesty and uses some very colourful language! It’s important to do something that we know our audiences will like and I think ‘The Steamie’ will really appeal to our audiences.”

A true Weegie, Jim describes his character janitor Andy as “a lovable drunk” and admits it is “rather frightening” being the only gent in an ensemble of strong ladies.

Portraying a way of life in the midst of change, ‘The Steamie’ is a hilarious cameo of Glasgow’s social history where the washing was always easier to do when the women shared their laughter and sorrow and a scandalous supply of gossip! It embarked on a Scottish tour last year to mark the 25th anniversary of it first hitting the stage.

For Pauline, there was something about the play that resonated with a lot of people and still had people talking a quarter of a century on.

“It’s such a smashing show,” she added. “The Glaswegian humour in it is fantastic and it’s incredibly written. There was an episode of Rab C Nesbitt on television the other day with Tony Roper in and I said to my husband ‘that’s our writer’.

“Starting rehearsals in September meant juggling ‘The Steamie’ with our Christmas pantomime and rehearsals for ‘The Sound of Music’, and although it’s been a challenge it’s been an enjoyable one.

“I’ve got a great cast here and tickets have been selling well, but there’s always room for more!”

Eyemouth Variety Group will perform ‘The Steamie’ on Thursday, January 17 and Friday, January 18 at the old Eyemouth High School, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets priced £7 for adults and £6 for children (the show is not recommended for under-12s) are available at Occasions on Eyemouth High Street.