Toby Stephens and Claire Skinner lead a string of impressive performances in Nichols’ play about caring for a disabled daughter – ★★★★
I walk into the Trafalgar Studios not knowing anything about Peter Nichols’ drama from 1967. Described as a classic and revived many times since, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg follows parents Brian and Sheila as they look after their daughter – the titular character Joe (or Josephine) – who has cerebral palsy. In 2019, I feel the play is now more impactful for its striking humanity than its daring comedy.
With several honest fourth wall breaks, we are drawn to Brian’s heartbreaking honesty (Toby Stephens), his selfish dark humour to detract his wife Sheila’s attention from Josephine serving only to make him more unlikeable than generate laughter. As a direct and interesting contrast, Claire Skinner (Outnumbered) is radiant as Sheila, who raises Josephine with ambition and quickly shuts down ableism from other characters.
Also in the strong cast is Miranda star Patricia Hodge – who’s at home with her portrayal of another bemoaning mother – and Storme Toolis as Josephine, the first disabled actress to play the role in what is a long overdue decision.
As director, Simon Evans (Killer Joe) creates a solid, emotional revival of Nichols’ work. In amongst the comedy and despair, the hope shines.
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is now playing at Trafalgar Studios until 30 November.
Production Images: Marc Brenner.
Disclaimer: I was invited to watch A Day in the Death of Joe Egg for free by Stagetext and Trafalgar Studios as part of Captioning Awareness Week, in exchange for a review of the performance. I did not receive payment for this review. All opinions stated are honest and my own.
Captioning Awareness Week runs from 11 November to 19 November, and more information can be found on Stagetext’s website or on Twitter via the #CAPAware19 hashtag.