Howard Panter for Trafalgar Theatre Productions
and Eilene Davidson Productions present
A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG
by Peter Nichols
directed by Simon Evans
21 September – 30 November 2019
Claire Skinner, Storme Toolis, Clarence Smith, Lucy Eaton and Toby Stephens. Photograph by Marc Brenner
A wonderful opportunity to see Peter Nichols’ 1967 hit play A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG, a hard-hitting play that tracks an evening in the life of Bri (Toby Stephens), a lower middle-class teacher in a sink comprehensive, his upper middle class ex actress wife, Sheila (Claire Skinner), and Joe (Storme Toolis), their severely disabled daughter.
Bri gets little satisfaction or prestige from his stressful teaching job and his homelife offers little respite. Although he still desires his wife, he finds her racy past titivating, but everything, including him, comes second to the constant needs of his helpless disabled daughter.
Sheila endlessly turns herself inside out with guilt, somehow managing to blame her colourful past for Joe’s birth defects. Bri blames the doctors. He encourages Sheila to get out and join the local amateur dramatics group, in an effort to try and rediscover the carefree actress he once married. He wants Sheila to have something else to think and talk about other than fixating on Joe. Bri escapes into his wild west paintings and uses bleak humour as a way of coping with his hopeless circumstances.
Despite the doctors writing her off as ‘a vegetable’ Sheila continues to hold out hope that Joe will one day show signs of improving. Bri doesn’t. Indeed, he is starting to question the very point of her continued existence. Perhaps he and Sheila could be happy again if Joe were to die…
A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG is compulsive viewing but this bittersweet play offers no easy answers. The excellent cast includes three big names; Toby Stephens, Claire Skinner and Patricia Hodge, who is a revelation cast against type as Bri’s unimaginative, stodgy, suffocating working class mother.
But the evening is Stephens’. He carries the play. His role is incredibly varied and demanding, involving spot on comic timing one minute and plumbing the depths of despair the next. His performance is an unforgettable tour de force as he plays a man a hair’s breath away from a nervous breakdown.
Superb writing and acting. Highly thought provoking. A must see!
Review by Sarah Monaghan
Monday – Saturday at 7:30pm,
Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2:30pm
Access performance dates to be confirmed