The Steamie 2: Gayle Telfer Stevens

⦁ Louise McCarthy and Gayle Telfer Stevens, Scotland’s favourite cleaners aka The Dolls, play Magrit and Dolly in the legendary Scottish play revamped for a limited Hogmanay run at SSE Hydro.
⦁ Fiona Wood and Mary McCusker reprise their roles of Doreen and Mrs Culfeathers.
⦁ Still Game and Taggart’s Harry Ward joins the cast as Andy.
⦁ Extra show now on sale on ⦁ SSE Hydro website! Matinee performance on 28th added.

A starry cast is today announced for Scotland’s best loved play, The Steamie. The revamped show – with more songs, more music and more laughs – will see The Dolls, Louise McCarthy and Gayle Telfer Stevens, marking their Steamie debut and playing the feisty Magrit and gullible Dolly respectively. Fiona Wood returns to the show for the third time to portrait the young, full of hope Doreen whilst Mary McCusker reprises the poignant role of Mrs Culfeathers. Harry Ward joins the cast as the lovable drunk handyman Andy.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions: I believe that it was the Steamie that inspired you to become actors. What was it about the show that gave you this ambition?
It’s about the mother-tongue of your family and those characters that are alive within your family. Everybody knows a Dolly; my granny was a Dolly. I identify with those characters. They’re so loved and so known within real life, so it’s kind of art imitating life almost. The 50s was a big big era for my grandma, so I remember hearing stories of her reminiscing – going to the ballroom dancing and going to the steamie, not having a toilet inside and coming from that era and that world, so I remember all that stuff being spoken about which is so lovely to reminisce about.

I think it is a bit obvious to ask why you are doing the Steamie now, but coming to performing it – has there been any parts of the script or production that have surprised you this time?
I think because it’s on such a big scale it’s going to be such an amazing thing to see. When you do a touring production everything has to be kept scaled down firmly and so going to set in a theatre even for those 5 days, staying in the one place and setting off there and finishing there, you can do so much with that, and obviously the bigger scale of revisiting the 1950s. Having an ensemble of 20 people is magic because we don’t normally have that. And also the musical aspect of it – they’ve added a new opener and ender in. Coming from a musical theatre background that that’s the kind of stuff I love, the ensemble, the big song and dance and it’s set in Glasgow so it’s like a Scottish musical effectively, so that’s the wonder of it going to the Hydro. And it’s not just staring off. It’s lovely to be part of it at any point, but I think dreams are made of this stuff, that you get to go to the Hydro, doing it at its height.

What are the differences between being in a Dolls show and a more traditionally scripted piece of theatre? Actually, it might be better if I asked about the similarities…
There’s a craziness that comes with The Dolls. The craziness doesn’t transcend to The Steamie – there’s a calmness in The Steamie whereas the craziness in The Dolls is just completely mental. From beginning to end it’s high octane, high kicks high everything and then there’s a calmness about the lingo and the movement in The Steamie that’s really calming but really funny, so I suppose that would be the difference. The similarities are that The Dolls are kind of modern day versions of Dolly and Magrit, with a big good modern twist. They’re foul-mouthed, a lot more dirtier, murkier and grittier – things that you weren’t allowed to be back in the day, but the similarities are that it’s feelgood and it’s Scottish as well. There’s very little of that about. And it’s also two women. I suppose Tony went and wrote this himself where me and Louise kind of went “Let’s do this, let’s just do it,” and we did. We made the money ourselves and put a show on and it does kind of sound like a fable but it’s not. Going round the clubs and plugging away to raise money to get money to put on a show. The similarity to that as well for Tony is that he just went “I’m going to write about this. F*** it.” Write about what you know, and that’s what we did, write about what makes us laugh and what we know. These are our family members, all kind of different people we know all kind of turned into one, so it’s quite exciting.
Widening the question out a bit, I suppose that when I started off on the West End at The National in Jerry Springer The Opera, I think taking that and then going into commercial theatre where it’s comedy along the same lines…what are the similarities? Probably the scale of it – this is massive and a West End show is massive. Also the discipline of it of being a performer and the magic of it is probably similar because it’s going to be a magical time and the first time that I get to visit this character I always wanted to play. So that’ll be an amazing nostalgic moment. And also coming from a TV background as just now I’m doing River City, it’s hugely different to go on stage than to go on a set and deliver a scene because it’s so intimate so there’ll be similarities in characterisation but it’s just such a different beast than my everyday job.
Why do you think the Steamie retains its popularity and freshness today, especially when the culture it depicts has mostly disappeared?

I think that people are crying out for nostalgia because times are hard. We’re going through times that are hard in comedy. It ignites people’s fire in their soul and it makes people comfortable. There’s a safety in comedy so when we watch something like The Steamie it’s nostalgic and heart-warming and that’s why it’s lasted the test of time. And I think Scotland really holds it really close to its heart. If you’ve got the Scottish on your side, you’re doing nae bad. It’s quite a patriotic thing isn’t it.

And it’s also the kind of only all-women thing that Scotland has. It’s so strange because it’s set in the 1950s, when now women are holding down jobs, their holding down families and houses so we’re doing it all, we’re meant to be superwoman, so I think it is really interesting that something that’s set in the 1950s has lasted this long. Maybe it’s the simplicity of what’s put on stage, and in the TV one as well, but it’s the simplicity of what they talk about which is so comedic in its way as well. It’s so amazing that they’re not going to any major lengths, they’re just really stuck in their characters. The way that Tony’s written those characters has lasted and it’s just because they were written so so well. That’s the true magic behind it.

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