Extra Review: Steaming (Govanhill Baths)

editorial image

IT’S not often you get the chance to climb into an historic swimming pool, fully-clothed, on a Friday night.

But there I found myself, tackling the steps into Govanhill Baths’ main pool, wrapped up for the rain outside (although not wrapped up enough, as I’d soon find out) for Steaming, the first resident show from Strathclyde Theatre Group.

The group have moved from the now-closed city centre Ramshorn Theatre and into Govanhill’s much-fought over bathhouse (and, it’s hoped, soon-to-be arts venue), and their first offering is tied into the Southside Fringe (firsts all round then).

The show, a 1981 Nell Dunn piece, is a familiar tale: six women fighting to save their Turkish Baths from council closure - all ending in the decision to occupy the space, much like the story of Govanhill.

But there’s more to the show than a fight against the council - in fact, the council and the wayward husbands and sons don’t even come into it, as this show is strictly women only (the one male character, Bill, is merely a voice from offstage).

The play is about escaping: from everyday life, class distinctions and the constraints of marriage and motherhood, and it’s about female friendships.

Each of the six ladies hold their own on stage, bringing laughs and tender moments in equal measure - bravely dressed, for the most part, in rather small wraparound towels.

It wouldn’t be as important elsewhere, but trust me - there’s little heating at the deep end, and those of us in coats and jackets struggled with the temperature indoors, so hats off to those on stage for keeping their cool (ahem) throughout.

There are problems with using a hollow swimming pool as a stage - namely that the acoustics are off, and it’s hard to hear some of the quieter lines amongst the echoes.

But Strathclyde Theatre Group’s interpretation of Steaming is a breath of fresh air because of the venue - an exciting piece of theatre informed by the space it’s performed in.

There’s no suspension of disbelief or forgetting where you are - but this only succeeds in drawing you into the action, and the feeling that you, too, are sharing a changing room with these fiesty characters.

Steaming runs until Friday, May 17, at 7.30pm - and it’s an exciting hint of more to come from both Govanhill Baths as an arts venue, and its latest occupants.

For ticket info, visit Brown Paper Tickets or the Shawlands Arcade Fringe HQ.