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Tony Roper first discovered his writing potential after penning sketches for comedy shows such as 'Scotch & Wry' and 'Naked Video' ( which he also starred in ). In 1987, he created a comedy-drama play entitled 'The Steamie', set in Glasgow, which followed the lives of four women - talkative Dolly, short tempered Margaret, young newlywed Doreen and the frail Mrs. Caulfeathers - all of which hope to get their washing finished at the local steamie ( wash-house ) on Hogmanay before the bells toll. Dolly likes to talk about her family, Margaret likes to talk about other people's affairs, Doreen dreams of starting a new life in Drumchapel ( one of the trendier parts of Glasgow ) with her husband while Mrs. Caulfeathers wishes her family weren't so distant.
The show first played at the Crawford Theatre in Glasgow and starred Elaine C. Smith as Dolly, Dorothy Paul as Margaret, Katy Murphy as Doreen and Ida Schuster as Mrs. Caulfeathers.
The show was a sell-out. So impressed was Roper with its response that he decided to adapt it to television. Both Katy Murphy and Dorothy Paul reprised their roles, however Elaine C. Smith was unable to return as she came under contract by the BBC to play Mary Doll in 'Rab C. Nesbitt' ( that and she was also pregnant at the time ) and so her place was taken by 'Take The High Road' star Eileen McCallum. Sheila Donald took over from Ida Schuster in the role of Mrs. Caulfeathers.
The television version of 'The Steamie' went out on STV on Hogmanay 1988 and attracted rave reviews and much critical acclaim. Indeed, so well received was it that both Tony Roper and Eileen McCallum won BAFTA awards. Ever since then it has been repeated every New Year's Eve since its inception.
'The Steamie' is not what I would consider to be an all-time great but it was amusing, heartwarming and well acted by all concerned. It could also be regarded as a history lesson in its own way. One of the funniest moments in the show featured Mrs Caulfeathers wondering why her husband always asked for another tattie ( Scottish slang for potato ) whenever she bought mince from Galloway's butcher ( you would have to see it to find it funny ). Also hilarious was Dolly and Margaret performing a tango in front of the whole wash house. One of the more sadder moments featured a tearful Mrs. Caulfeathers pouring her heart out to her friends about how her family never make an effort to visit her. Also moving was Margaret's speech to camera, delivered with true conviction by Dorothy Paul, about how women are treated by their husbands as unpaid skivvies. A then unknown Peter Mullan ( who later went on to become an award winning actor, writer and producer ) appears here as Andy, the hapless handyman who has a fondness for whisky. Caroline Paterson, the future Ruth Fowler of 'Eastenders', is seen fleetingly as a housewife.
The only real negative aspect of the show was the musical sequences which included 'Dreams Come True', sung ( or rather squawked ) by Katy Murphy, 'When You've Got Pals' and 'We've Got Our Pride' ( the last two sung by the entire cast ), all of which were written by 'City Lights' actor Dave Anderson. Overall, 'The Steamie' is a pleasant way to wile away an hour and a half and also shows us there was more to Tony Roper than just Jamesie Cotter.
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