I love 60s theatre, so when I was offered a ticket to review A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, I jumped at the chance. Peter Nichols’ play details how a couple cope with bringing up a severely disabled child, a subject that is close to my heart, being both a parent of children with special needs and having many friends in similar situations.
I came away from the play with mixed feelings. It’s a difficult subject to cover, especially as a comedy, and the cast did well to elicit numerous laughs from the audience while treating the material with the respect it demands and deserves.
The standout of the show was the guy who played Brian. Sadly, I didn’t catch his name, but I have fond memories of his performance as Blackadder in the open air festival a couple of years back and he was perfectly cast as the disillusioned teacher using humour to cope with an incredibly difficult situation. His portrayal was complex and sympathetic, drawing you into the story.
It has to be said that without Brian, the play would have lost a lot of its charm. Sheila, his wife, was solidly played and the first half worked well as we learned about the couple’s marriage and how they found out about their daughter’s disability and the impact it had on their lives.
The second half saw the cast expand to include Brian’s mother and a couple Sheila met through her amateur dramatics. This gave the opportunity to introduce further opinions on what Sheila and Brian ‘should’ be doing and the pressures the faced externally as well as internally, but I found that the performances were flat compared to the first half. Perhaps Brian was just that good.
Overall, though, it was an enjoyable performance of the quality I’ve come to expect from Everyman Theatre. The show runs until Saturday at the Chapter in Cardiff, including a Saturday afternoon matinee, and it’s well worth going to see.
Tickets are still available here: http://chapter.org/joeegg