A Day in the Death of Joe Egg @ The Nottingham Playhouse

STAND-UP from the very beginning – yes, one member of the audience was actually asked to stand up as Brian (Mark Benton) yelled out to his classroom. Fits of laughter erupted, and thoughts of ‘don’t pick on me next’ vibrated across the room. Despite this initial embarrassment, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is not intended to make you squirm. It did however make you want to shrink into your seat, and remain unnoticed.

You are invited into the home of middle-aged parents Bri and Sheila (Amy Robbins) and given an intimate view into their lives and the struggles of bringing up a disabled child. The first half reveals the dynamics of their relationship – love, lust, jealousy… they really don’t hold back! The interval is introduced by the daughter eerily skipping towards us, the effect is intense as the music suggests she is a ghost of what the girl could have been. The second half introduces more characters and with this, we see the play address the social perceptions of disabilities. Often through non-politically correct language, the play portrays how the parents are forced to accept their lives. The assertion that ‘we’re allowed to say this because it’s our daughter’ stops the audience from feeling uncomfortable with the delicate subject matter.

The performance balances the seriousness of the content with comical lines, and the role plays of various encounters between parents and doctors were particularly entertaining. I applaud Benton in this area of his performance. The casual slipping in and out of roles made the play more light hearted and enriched the plot. The comedy only ever enhanced the harsh reality of their situation. There were some truly spectacular moments where you could feel the silence around you as the audience held their breath – such as when the subject of euthanasia was injected into the equation.

Unfortunately, at times, the strong accents of the male actors made it difficult to understand what they were saying. This did somewhat lessen the pleasure of the performance as it was a strain to take in the dialogue.

The ending was extremely powerful, a pause and a fidget before the applause demonstrated the real effect the performance had had. Overall, what was most striking about the play was the way director Matt Aston created a truly thought-provoking piece. I left the theatre feeling my eyes had been opened…

By Charlotte Elver

ArtsArts Reviews

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