Review Roundup: A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG Revival At Trafalgar Studios
When Peter Nichols wrote the ground-breaking play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg in 1967, it was inspired by his own personal experience of bringing up his disabled daughter. A story about family, the funny and moving play shines a light on her parents' caring for their daughter, who is affectionately nicknamed Joe Egg.
Now more than five decades later, a revival of this funny and moving masterpiece opened at Trafalgar Studios this week, with the part of Joe Egg being played by Storme Toolis, an actor who herself lives with cerebral palsy. This is the first time in the play's West End history that a disabled actor has been cast in this pivotal role.
Directed by Simon Evans (Killer Joe, Arturo Ui), A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is a bittersweet and startlingly funny, celebrated play which will break your heart one minute and fill it with warmth the next. The production is designed by Olivier Award winner Peter McKintosh, with lighting design by Prema Mehta and sound design and composition by Ed Lewis.
See what the critics had to say!
Marianka Swain, BroadwayWorld: With a subject such as this, there is of course a danger that the play could stray towards the morose and sentimental. Nichols refuses to allow this to happen, opting to use humour as a means for the characters to cope. Whilst this no doubt generates some feelings of awkwardness, it works dramatically and if anything makes the family's plight even more heartbreaking.
Natasha Tripney. The Stage: It's handsome, certainly. Peter McKintosh's rotating set is stuffed full of period-appropriate details, but the way the lighting cues signal emotional shifts feels heavy-handed. The anguish in the writing doesn't always come across; the secondary characters are played very broadly. Evans is better with the terrible farce of the play's later scenes, in which Bri is tempted to allow Joe's life to end - to free her, or perhaps more accurately, to free him - but it still feels tame.
John Nathan, Metro: So although Simon Evans's production often feels dated, it is still full of the bravery with which the play made its mark - from tackling a subject that was once taboo, to placing a disabled character (affectingly played by Toolis, who has cerebral palsy) centre stage.
Demetrious Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter: Nichols has presented a tough balancing act, between concealing and revealing, humor and pain, but it's one that that can be more rewardingly expressed, as it was by Clive Owen and Victoria Hamilton in London in 2001. This production's director, Simon Evans, recently staged Tracy Letts' Killer Joe at the Trafalgar, another evening that failed to deliver on its firecracker potential. Perhaps he needs to let his actors go a bit.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: There is also the bonus of Patricia Hodge who, as Bri's protective mum, spears a certain kind of waspish decorum, and of Storme Toolis who gives the play's titular heroine a moving physical presence. While Nichols's play may have lost its initial shock value, this revival shows it still possesses a rare truth and humanity.
Julian Eaves, British Theatre: Director Simon Evans knows this and has a great deal more fun with this show than he did recently with the more laboured 'The Best Man': this is altogether a sharper, gayer, zestier experience and marks him out as a possible specialist for drama of this period.
Claire Allfree, The Telegraph: But, if Nichols did have concerns, he needn't have - Simon Evans's super-starry production, featuring Toby Stephens, Claire Skinner and Patricia Hodge, is both worthy tribute and a resounding vindication: the play, if anything, feels more savagely true than ever.