Tony Roper’s great celebration of female unity, set in a Glasgow washhouse – or Steamie – at the turn of 1950, proves to be as hilarious and poignant as it ever was.
The gossip and home truths which the four women tell each other across the wash stations on Hogmanay, and their internal monologues revealed in David Anderson’s blues-infected songs, all give a nostalgic vision of times past while providing a sense of what we have given up in return for our modern life.
As the play speaks with the real voice of the people, it dares to express social attitudes to religion, gender and race in a truthful way.
What makes this one of the most popular modern Scottish plays are its stories: of Galloway Mince, the peat bath and dreams of a Drumchapel telephone.
Roper directs his own play with a clear understanding of the language which makes it shine. The performances are similarly strong. Libby McArthur plays prime gossip Dolly with superb comic timing. Mary McCusker brings a rare physicality to the aged Mrs Culfeathers, ensuring that you believe in both her frailty and her resilience.
Carmen Pieraccini exudes bitterness as the ever-faithful Margrit and, while Fiona Wood’s singing voice stands out as Doreen, she also brings real dream-dust to her longing for labour-saving appliances.
These are four women who know their own strengths in a male world exemplified by Steven McNicoll’s drunken Andy. There’s nostalgia here, certainly, but also a potent reminder of where our aspirations come from.