Monday, September 20, 2010

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

Hobart 17 September 
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg has stayed with me but not allowed me to write until now. I have indulged my thoughts, reflecting on the familiar stories that resonate with this strange and difficult to digest play.

Without question this is a play that audiences must see. This production is beautifully staged and realised by a dynamic and committed cast who, through humour, take us to the raw grit of pain and despair of lives unrealised.

The story is that of Sheila, played by Julia Davis, Brian (Jonathan Gavin) and their 10 year old severely disabled daughter Joe, (Sophie Webb) nicknamed ‘Joe Egg’. This well scripted play has the two lead characters reliving their story through vaudeville dance, singing and replaying their life scenes to the much obliging audience.
Joe Egg premiered in Glasgow in 1967 and it resonates as much now as it would have then. Playwright Peter Nichols was known for writing about his own life and Joe Egg reflects his experience of raising a handicapped child.  This is a strong and convincing script that is timeless in its debate and discussion around complex issues.

The relationship and tension created by Gavin and Webb is believable. We see how the tired young couple operate within this strange construct; Brian through his jokes and games and Sheila, filling her day with tasks. Feeding the budgie, the fish and the stick insects. Completely devoted to her daughter and still hoping, after 10 years, that there will be a sign of improvement.

‘A terrible sense of duty, my wife’, is how Brian describes her to the audience.

Both of them talking around Joe, creating characters for her; a life for her. A girl whose grandmother, Grace (played by Genevieve Mooy), wistfully imagines running around the house.

The entire cast should be commended but particularly Gavin, David and Webb, who are untiring in their performances. Surely the challenge when undertaking such a project is to maintain the integrity of the script, not go too far and to keep it real. Kim Hardwick’s direction appears seamless and light, giving space for the performers to live the characters.

The stage, lighting, sound, design, cast and crew of Critical Stages and White box Theatre production should be commended for presenting an excellent production. I will be looking out for these companies’ upcoming shows.

A Day in the Life of Joe Egg continues to tour the country.

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