When it first opened in 1987, The Steamie took the theatrical world by storm. Set during the 1950s, the play takes place on Hogmanay in a Glasgow public wash house or 'Steamie'. As the washing is done, four women sing, laugh and cry their way through the last working day of that year, with a little help from the increasingly not so handy Andy. Portraying a way of life in the midst of change, The Steamie fast became a firm favourite with people of all ages up and down the land and, to this day, its popularity shows no signs of waning. Half a century on, the way we work may have changed but, whenever the play is staged, it can still strike a chord of recognition in members of the audience and have them rolling in the aisles with laughter one moment and wiping away a tear the next. he novel The Steamie delves further into the lives of Doreen, Magrit, Mrs Culfeather and Dolly. It also brings some of the lively characters that only get a passing mention in the play more to the forefront. As the women get on with their washing, we eavesdrop on Magrit's man who has her 'up to high doh' most of the time as he will 'neither work nor want'.
We come to understand why the bad behaviour of her two laddies will be the death of her. And we also meet her daughter who, happily for Magrit, is a lovely wee lassie and provides welcome relief from the troubles the males in her family are always bringing her. We are introduced to Mrs Culfeather's husband, Harry. Over the years, life hasn't treated Harry very kindly but he reminds us that there can be laughter in spite of the struggle that was life in those days. Then there's Doreen's other half, John, and, last but certainly not least, Dolly's family also make an appearance. The Steamie is a hilarious yet, at times, also deeply moving cameo of Glasgow's social history. The washing was always easier to do when joys and sorrows were shared and, of course, time passed much more quickly when the supply of scandalous gossip was as endless as the pile of dirty clothes!