How do you bring a fresh and different take to Tony Roper’s classic and much-loved Scottish comedy, The Steamie? Do it in drag.
And the team behind Dragged Tae The Steamie – which arrives at Aberdeen’s Tivoli Theatre on Saturday July 8 – hope their Scotland wide-tour will find new audiences both for the iconic show and a new appreciation for the art of drag performance.
“It is 99% the same script as The Steamie you know and love, it just so happens the characters are played by drag performers – and the solo male character is played by a female actress,” said Grant F Kidd, the show’s producer who also plays Magrit.
“We wanted to add a new concept to The Steamie, but also introduce new audiences to contemporary Scottish theatre. There are people who will come and see a drag show but wouldn’t go and see a play and I wanted to find a way to show them how good Scottish theatre can be.
The Steamie will bring heartfelt and hilarious nostalgia to the Tivoli
“We also wanted to show to more standard theatre audiences the skills that a lot of drag performers have. It isn’t just all high kicks and death drops. There are a lot of drag artists who are at heart performers and actors.”
Since it was first staged in 1987 – and later televised by STV in 1988 – The Steamie has become one of the most popular and most performed pieces of Scottish theatre.
Set in a Glasgow washhouse on Hogmany in the 1950s, four very different women gather to do their last laundry of the year while sharing jokes, memories, tales of their menfolk and hope for their future, complete with songs and music. The result is a heartfelt but hilarious piece of nostalgia
And Dragged Tae Productions delivers it virtually unchanged, all with Tony Roper’s blessing and support, said Grant.
‘Extra looks’ bring drag flavour to fresh version of classic Scots comedy
“Because it’s a drag adaptation it’s mainly things like extra looks,” said Grant. “There is a line in the original script: ‘Does she wear her mother’s shoes tae, because I used tae dae that’. However, it means something different when there’s a drag queen standing there saying that. It’s the same line, just with a different meaning and emphasis.”
Playing Magrit in The Steamie – originally performed by Scottish entertainment legend Dorothy Paul – is the realisation of a childhood dream for Grant.
“When I was six, I saw The Steamie and decided I wanted to play Magrit when I was older and that was what made me become an actor,” he said.
In fact, his drag persona as Auntie Effie, an award-winning panto dame as well as a renowned cabaret artist in the UK and Europe, was inspired by Magrit and Dolly in The Steamie.
He said: “About 12 years ago we got talking about could you do a drag version of The Steamie, would it be accepted, then last year we got permission to give it a try.”
Drag take on The Steamie works because of strong characters
The result was Dragged Tae The Steamie performing a sold-out run of eight shows at Glasgow’s Britannia Panopticon Music Hall to critical and audience acclaim.
“It worked because these are strong characters and everyone knows them. Not so much because they know The Steamie, but you watch the show and you can see your mammy, your granny, your aunties in these four women.
“So it lent itself very well to drag because drag perfomers who do acting and character work, like panto dames, have based it on their mums, grans and aunties.”
Grant has little doubt fans of The Steamie will love the Dragged Tae version. And he has little doubt why the play is still as popular today to the point where it is woven into the Scottish psyche.
“In these four women you can see the women you grew up with and the social issues it deals with still remain. But also there’s the nostalgia aspect. It was written in the 80s and set in the 50s as a nostalgia piece, but I think now a lot of people have grown up with it, or they have seen the STV version and loved it.
“This allows them to come and relive the feeling of first seeing it on STV, because it’s the show they know and love but it feels new and fresh seeing it live.”
Dragged Tae Productions might look at other plays in future
The Steamie, however, is not the only show which Grant hopes to present with Dragged Tae Productions.
“We might look if there are any other plays doing this to could work,” he said. “It’s not as simple as picking a play and putting drag queens in to play the characters. It needs to be the right play with some sort of message or theme that is relevant to it being drag performers.
“But we will see how The Steamie goes. After 26 years I’ve got to eventually play Magrit, I’m happy but we’ll just have to see what comes from it.”
And he has a simple message to people coming along to see Dragged Tae The Steamie at The Tivoli.
“If you enjoy Scottish theatre, or you enjoy The Steamie, or you enjoy drag, come and see the show because there will be something there hopefully you’re are going to love. Let yourself get Dragged Tae The Steamie.”
Dragged Tae The Steamie is at The Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen on Saturday July 8. For more information and tickets visit thetivolitheatre.com or call 01224 592755.