JOINING the new tour of The Steamie, which is celebrating 30 years of entertaining audiences, was a real step back in time for Carmen Pieraccini.
The former River City star says she got her first taste of the old favourite, written by Tony Roper, when she was still a schoolgirl.
“I did scenes from it at my high school drama class when I was in fourth year,” Carmen told iN10. “I must have been about 15 and I’m 38 now, so it’s almost 25 years ago.
“Funnily enough, I was playing Margaret which is what I’m doing in this new production.
“When we were in rehearsals for this I was standing listening to Tony describe some things and I almost couldn’t believe I was there. It really took me back.
“I don’t feel any different in my head from when I at school – it’s just the outside shell that changes.”
By 15, Carmen already knew that acting was where her heart lay. She had been captivated ever since a drama class at a community centre in Dalry when she was 12.
Her career finally led her to River City where she had a few spells playing troubled Kelly-Marie before being axed in May last year.
“When I’d left before it was my decision but this time it was theirs,” confides Carmen.
“They just told me they’d run out of storylines for my character and that was that. It came out of the blue.
“Filming can be fun, but with River City it was so fast that it was hard to enjoy it at times. You could have a laugh now and then but it’s so full-on that it was ‘say the lines, walk over there, one take and that’s it.’
“And to be honest, the way they’d written my character I was always depressed and crying. That takes its toll as well.
“So it was a bit of a blessing in disguise that I didn’t need to go in to work greetin’ and depressed any longer. Having been out of the show before I knew what that was like.
“It’s opened up a great new chapter for me with The Steamie and I love the chance to do this.”
After its opening in Kirkcaldy, the tour will take in dates in Aberdeen, Dundee, Ayr, Inverness, Stirling, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Libby McArthur, Steve McNicoll and Fiona Wood are also in the cast.
And steamie life is something that co-star Mary McCusker actually remembers.
“I’m old enough to have been to a steamie,” says Mary, 73.
“I was born in the Gorbals and I went along with my mother when I was very small.
“So I know what it meant to people. But although they are a thing of the past, the relationships featured in this still resonate no matter what age you are.
“Although some of the stuff on stage will look like relics, I think women still laugh at the stuff they recognise – the frustrations, the love and the companionship.”
It’s the first time that Mary has properly worked with Tony, but their relationship goes back a long, long way.
She left school at 15 and worked as a window dresser for House of Fraser before an encounter with Tony changed everything.
“It’s his fault I got into acting at all,” laughs Mary.
“I met Tony with an amateur dramatics society that was rehearsing in one of the stores at the time.
“I was singing in the chorus and he was playing one of the main parts. He got me into another society and it was there that someone spotted me and suggested I went to drama school.
“I hadn’t even thought of that as I didn’t think that actors came from my background.”
More recently Mary has been putting her all her training to use in novel fashion.
She runs workshops for scientists who are bidding for funding for major projects.
“You’re teaching the sorts of things actors do instinctively,” adds Mary. “They’re having to sell themselves as well as their ideas in an environment they’re not necessarily used to.
“It’s one thing working in a lab and another having to go in front of committees.
“Often there are millions of pounds at stake and I’ve got a pretty good success rate.
“My partner says it’s a shame I’m not on commission.”
The Steamie, Adam Smith Theatre Kirkcaldy September 6, then on tour