A Day In The Death of Joe Egg

Written by Peter Nichols
Directed by Stephen Unwin
Liverpool Playhouse (until 27th April 2013)

Reviewed by Victoria Vass
Photo by Simon Annand

The difficulties faced by the parents of a child with profound disability may not be everyone’s first choice as a subject for a comedy. However Steve Unwin’s production of Peter Nichols’s 1967 play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg surprisingly makes it work.

The everyday trials and tribulations of Bri and Sheila, parents to ten-year-old Joanna, are charmingly portrayed by a small but well-chosen cast who effuse with an infectious energy. The dialogue is quick-paced and darkly comic from the very start; often breaking the fourth wall to engage directly with the audience which is particularly effective in expressing the characters’ personal feelings in what feels like an intimate tête-à-tête. This, as with the play as a whole, is bittersweet.

One almost wishes that some of these insights came from Joanna herself, to hear what she thinks of the people around her and their treatment of her. However, this lack of interaction is weighty and significant in itself - the realism amidst the farce. Indeed, Jessica Bastick-Vines as Joanna, or “Joe Egg” as she is referred to by her parents, is so convincing in her role that one is jolted by her normality in her mother’s day-dream scenes.

All of the characters are emotionally engaging and refreshingly lacking in political correctness which relaxes attitudes and makes you able to laugh-out-loud in this often black comedy. Ralf Little and Rebecca Johnson as Bri and Sheila have a good chemistry and bounce off one another; and the supporting cast of the family friends Freddie and Pamela (Owen Oakeshott & Sally Tatum), and Bri’s mum Grace (Majorie Yates) are very funny and have real flair. If you come to A Day In the Death of Joe Egg looking for answers you won’t find any; but you will find a refreshing look at life with a disabled child, and plenty of laughs.

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is showing at the Liverpool Playhouse until the 27th of April.

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