I was back at Trafalgar Studios last night for this much-anticipated revival of Peter Nichols’ 1967 masterpiece A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. And there was so much to discuss with this production, making history for a number of reasons.
Along with Passion Play and Privates on Parade, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg remains one of Peter Nichols‘ best known and most frequently performed plays. The black comedy was inspired by Nichols’ own experience of bringing up his disabled daughter, who died at the age of 11. In it, Bri and Sheila – played here by Toby Stephens and Claire Skinner – are struggling to care for their non-responsive daughter Josephine, nicknamed ‘Joe Egg’. They lose themselves in fantasy games and black humour. Can they ultimately cope?
This is the first West End revival of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg since a 2001/2 staging that starred Clive Owen (and later Eddie Izzard) and Victoria Hamilton. And Simon Evans‘ new production makes history for two other reasons: first, sadly, it’s the first since Nichols himself passed away, on 7 September, one month before the Q&A, aged 92; second, more happily, it’s the first to cast a non-able-bodied actor (Storme Toolis) in the role of Joe Egg.
- What involvement did Peter Nichols have in the production before his death? What did he think of the casting approach?
- How much have attitudes to disability changed in the past 52 years?
- Why is now a good time to revive the play for us all?
- What advice did Storme offer to her able-bodied co-stars?
- How difficult is it to say – and to hear – the disablist language in the play?
- How does the show go on with Extinction Rebellion camps outside the theatre?
For last night’s post-show Q&A, I was joined by director Simon Evans and cast members Toby Stephens, Claire Skinner and Storme Toolis as well as Patricia Hodge, who plays Bri’s mother, and Lucy Eaton, who plays the couple’s appalled friend Pam.
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg runs at Trafalgar Studios until 30 November 2019.
Event photography by Peter Jones.
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