The Steamie: The Anniversary Tour of a classic Scottish Play
Since its debut twenty-five years ago, The Steamie has become a Scottish classic: even a young turk like Johnny McKnight picked it as one of his favourite plays during the National Theatre of Scotland's Staging the Nation series of readings. For this anniversary production its writer Tony Roper - well known as Jamesie off Rab C Nesbit - has been enlisted to direct.
Despite being one of Scotland's most recognisable comedy actors, Roper is disarmingly honest and friendly. He laughs off suggestions that he had a special reason for returning to The Steamie, insisting that he had no idea that it was the twenty-fifth anniversary until the producer got in touch, and is self-deprecating about his success.
"When I originally wrote it, no-one wanted to do it!" he remembers. "So I threw it in the drawer, and four years later, Wildcat needed an old story. Elaine C Smith, who was doing Naked Video with me, was telling me about this... to cut a long story short, they did it - otherwise it would probably still be sitting in my drawer."
The subsequent television version popularised The Steamie - Roper has heard estimates that 8 million people have seen it, and that a Finnish company perform it every year - and its story of women getting their washing done on New Year's Eve has become emblematic of a specific slice of Scottish history.
Yet Roper admits that the female heavy cast was not designed as a statement, but from practicality. "It was purely logical: the company who commissioned me were touring round community halls. I knew that the people who went were mostly pensioners - so I figured if I was going to write something, it would be something for the majority of the audience."
Roper's stratregy paid off: The Steamie is now a modern classic and even an anniversary tour like this is less an exercise in nostalgia than a welcome reminder of Scotland's populist theatre tradition.