London Theatre Review: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at London's Trafalgar Studios
| By Kay Johal
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg focuses on Bri and Sheila; parents to a disabled daughter they have nicknamed “Joe Egg”. The couple uses wry humour to deal keep the family together, and the limits of this approach, and the strength of their relationship, are tested. The show is undoubtedly an important and illuminating piece of theatre, the play being based on the author’s own struggles with raising his disabled daughter. Storme Toolis as Joe was excellent. I found myself drawn to focusing on her when she was on stage. Her control over the character was masterful and truly brilliant to watch.
The opening of the play was sharp. With hindsight, choosing to have Bri immediately address the audience without warning snapped us into the realisation that this is an intimate, stylised piece – we are not just passive observers; the characters are aware of our presence and will address us as they see fit. However, when the play began I did not realise this at the time. I thought we were just taking the place of the school children Bri was referring to; rather than being part of the play ourselves. Later, when Bri kept looking out to the audience when delivering his lines and giving knowing glances, I at first felt that Toby Stephens was overdoing his portrayal of the larger-than-life character that is Bri. Not to worry though, on commencement of the first monologue, where the audience were more directly addressed, I realised we were a part of the piece; giving the show an intimate ‘play within a play’ feel.
Peter McKintosh’s set was excellent and reflected the stylised nature of the piece. Despite offering a very realistic space for the actors to engage with, the ability to see the lights at the side of the stage and the exposure of the back of the theatre reflected the blend of reality and pure theatre. It did not break the audience’s suspension of belief but made us feel part of the play itself, the characters using the form of theatre to appeal to us. Ultimately, the set allowed for a great deal of intimacy to be felt. McKintosh’s costumes worked well. The choices complemented the characters - you could tell right away Freddie and Pam were deeply concerned with appearances.
Prima Mehta’s lighting was of great importance in conveying the transition between what is happening in the scene and the monologues. The use of cool-toned spotlights signalled the audience to stop taking in the characters as a whole and focus on what one, in particular, wanted us to know. Simon Evans' direction of the ending was masterful. A moment I particularly loved was when the play in a sense came ‘full circle’: - Bri hiding behind the door from his wife at the end as he did at the beginning - but for an entirely different reason.
The show is certainly both as funny and moving as claimed. A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is well worth the watch and will be running for a limited time at Trafalgar Studios.
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg tickets available from £29!
Multiple ticket bands available with no booking fee when you book by 7 October. No booking fees on £55, £45 and £35 tickets. Valid Monday - Thursday performances until 10 October 2019.