A strongly cast production of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg proves a fitting tribute to Peter Nichols at the Trafalgar Studios
“I tend to raise my voice when I’m helping people”
Just a quickie as we’re nearly at the end of the run for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, revived at the Trafalgar Studios by Simon Evans. This production might be sold on the star wattage of its leads Toby Stephens and Claire Skinner but for me, its real power comes in the casting of Storme Toolis as the titular Joe Egg, the first disabled actor to be cast in the role.
Its significant because the character of Joe is disabled herself, requiring constant supervision, the realities of which are starting to show on the marriage between Bri and Sheila. Evans embraces an arch vaudevillean style to let this fighting couple let us know what they’re thinking, to give us insight into the coping mechanisms necessary to give their daughter the best life she can have.
There’s perhaps a tendency to overplay the comedy, particularly by Stephens, at the expense of the heart-wrenching tragedy that dominates this family’s dynamic. Skinner manages the tragicomic balance better, as her hope overrides his despair, in the beautifully realised details of Peter McKintosh’s 1960s set and costumes.
As the non-verbal, non-mobile Joe, there’s a limited amount for Toolis to do, though that in itself brings a moving element of surprise near the end of the first act. And the power of her mere presence on the stage feels like a significant moment. One can only hope that it is the first step of her stage career rather than a one-off, that directors might dare to cast her as Pam in the future, to consider her for roles that aren’t written as disabled – now that would be progress.