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Review: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, at Trafalgar Studios

Toby Stephens plays a teacher at the end of his tether in uncompromising 1967 play by Peter Nichols

10 October, 2019 — By Catherine Usher

Toby Stephens in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

WITH a cast full of big names in a popular 1967 play based on playwright Peter Nichols’ own experiences, A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg promises much, and happily delivers.

Toby Stephens is terrific (and yet sometimes rather chilling) as teacher Bri, who seems to be at the end of his tether, raising his severely disabled daughter, Joe.

Claire Skinner is a pure bundle of love as mum Sheila, who plays along with the comedy Bri initiates to get through the day, but is really simply devoted to their daughter.

Examining the coping strategies the couple use to enable them to overcome the demands of caring for Joe, the story is frequently raw and uncompromising as the negative impact on their relationship is highlighted.

While Sheila seems to enjoy her carer role, although she is physically and emotionally drained by the experience, Bri craves normality and positions himself in competition with his daughter for Sheila’s affection.

Patricia Hodge gives a wonderfully understated turn as Joe’s grandma Grace in the second act, but it is Lucy Eaton and Clarence Smith, as family friends Pam and Freddie, who bring the comedy to the fore. Eaton in particular is a joy as self-centred, spiky Pam, who regards Joe (Storme Toolis) with barely concealed repulsion, while she bathes in self-satisfaction at the comparative comfort of her own family life.

Toolis portrays Joe’s many problems with compassion and the comfortable suburban sitting room set highlights the trio’s unusually demanding situation which frequently unfolds behind closed doors.

Make no mistake, A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg can’t be described as an enjoyable play, but it is everything else you could ask for. Powerful, enlightening, funny and poignant.

Until November 30
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