IT’S taken the better part of 25 years for actress Kay Gallie to reach the age of The Steamie’s Mrs Culfeathers.
For the 25th anniversary tour of Tony Roper’s play about a wash house in 50s Glasgow, Kay’s back as Mrs Culfeathers – only with one difference this time around.
"I’m now actually older than the character!" Kay laughed. "In the past I’ve had to ‘age up’ to play the part!"
Though Kay wasn’t in the original production of the show, she remembers one thing clearly from 1987.
"I couldn’t get to see it on its first tour because it was already such a hot ticket!"
Though Kay couldn’t sound nicer on the phone, she’s currently best-known to River City viewers as evil Agnes, who is planning the murder of Lenny.
Kay laughed: "I also played Granny Doyle, a gangster, in TV drama Tinseltown.
"But apart from that, I’ve lived quite a quiet life!"
As a newly-graduated drama student back in the 60s, Kay’s career began at the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow, acting with Albert Finney – whose long career includes 60s movie classic Saturday Night, Sunday Morning to The Bourne Ultimatum.
"Albert had wanted to get into directing and had written to all the rep companies, including Scottish actor-manager Iain Cuthbertson at The Citz – who was one of the few who wrote back. I think the rest thought it was a hoax!"
Having acted alongside him in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Kay’s career got a flying start in her first season, appearing in everything from 18th century comedy School For Scandal to A Streetcar Named Desire.
And in 1963 she decided to head off to Swinging Sixties capital London.
"It was terribly exciting," recalled Kay. "But I remember going on the Tube to audition as an understudy for a production with Sir Alec Guinness and being so nervous. But I told myself ‘Go! Or you’ll have to get the next train back to Scotland!’."
Before Kay did return, she enjoyed working at the National Theatre on productions including film director’s Franco Zeffirelli’s stage version of Much Ado About Nothing where the cast played living statues.
"Agents said to you ‘stay in London’, but I found myself thinking no-one was asking me to play some of the great roles I wanted to play like Hedda Gabler."
Kay left London and did play Hedda – and also got the chance to play Muriel Spark’s headstrong Edinburgh teacher Miss Jean Brodie.
"I’m an Edinburgh girl anyway, so I recognised the society the story was all about!"
Kay – who is looking forward to her next role back at the Citz in Samuel Beckett’s Footfalls – believes part of The Steamie’s success is down to Tony Roper’s writing.
"It’s lovely that he’s written the parts with tremendous respect for the women – and love!"
The Steamie is at Eden Court, Inverness, until Saturday and at His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen, from April 24 to 28