The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
February 13, 14, 15, 16 & 17 1979
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg
by Peter Nicolls
Katie Donkin – Joe
David Creedon – Bri
Margaret Ockenden – Sheila
Tim Cara – Freddie
Valerie Burt – Pam
Frances Moulton – Pam
Stage Manager – Brian Moulton
Assistant – Margaret Davy
Assistant – Frances Thorne
Lighting – Andrew Theaker
Set Design & Construction – Brian Moulton
Paintings – Vincent Joyce
Front of House – John King
Box Office – Sandie Joyce
Programme Design – Antony Muzzall
Foyer Design – Antony Muzzall
Programme Note #1: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg
GP wrote: “Bri and Freddie, the two men in this play, went to the same school. the school motto, says Peter Nichols the author, was DUM SPIRO SPERO – ‘While I live I hope’ – and that is what this play is about. Joe Egg is a spastic child of ten .. and this is comedy! Does that make sense?
Brian, the husband, is not reconciled to Sheila’s obsession with Joe. He tries to trick her out of her routine with jokes, play acting and rhetoric – it is all a charade – a way of coping with the unacceptable – he is not without compassion but sees no end to the problem. Sheila endures, joins in with the games; she embraces all living things says Brian but questions his position in the pecking order “between the budgerigar and the stick insect” – what happens to his marriage?
The play acting is hilarious – the pathos of the real situation brings one near to tears – a lovely play and a moving experience.”
Publicity #1: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: February 9 1979 issue – page 2
YOUTH is to the fore in Wick Theatre Company’s next production at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, starting on Tuesday.
Katie Donkin, a 10-year-old member of Wick’s junior section, takes the lead rôle in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg by Peter Nicholson. She plays the crippled Joe, only daughter of Bri and Sheila, a couple in their early 30s whose efforts to adapt to their child are handled with the utmost delicacy in funny and most touching play.
Dave Creedon and Margaret Ockenden play Joe’s parents, Valerie Burt and Tim Cara portrays theatrical friends of Sheila and Frances Moulton is Bri’s mother Grace.
Review #1: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: February 23 1979 issue – page 2
Reviewer: Frank Horsley
Text Header: “COMEDY ABOUT TRAGEDY”
FROM the moment David Creedon stepped on stage and addressed the audience like a class of naughty schoolchildren, it was clear we were in for another compelling evening’s entertainment from Wick Theatre Company. Right from the start, Wick gripped one’s attention with A Day in the Death of Joe Egg by Peter Nichols – staged at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, last week.
This unusual comedy about two parents’ different ways of adjusting to their 10-year-old spastic child was tailor-made for Wick’s mind-broadening style. Coping with such a sensitive subject, there was a danger of turning the play into one long, sick joke, but director George Porter and his experienced cast steered well clear of such a pitfall.
I had never seen David Creedon act before but was immediately impressed by his portrayal of Joe’s father, Bri. He came across exactly right as a man, who in his own words, “could not sustain a passion to the end of a sentence”. He wanted to be compassionate towards his spastic daughter, but could only live with her afflictions by playfully acting out episodes from her past life – a sort of escape from reality. His rather unwilling partner in these charades was his wife Sheila whom Margaret Ockenden brought to life with great skill, although occasionally forgetting her lines on the first night.
I thought Tim Cara highly amusing as the loud-spoken friend of the family, Freddie, who wanted to help Sheila and Bri’s marriage, but was a little less than useless. And ruthlessly leaving bare another attitude towards the crippled child was Valerie Burt as Freddie’s wife Pam. Her reaction in life was to shudder away from anything less than perfect.
Frances Moulton was perhaps a bit too much of a stereotype as Bri’s molly-coddling mother, Grace, but raised many laughs just the same, and young Katie Donkin did all that was expected of her in the title rôle.
Review #2: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg
Publication: Brighton & Hove Gazette
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Lester Middlehurst
IT IS hard to believe anybody could write a comedy about such a depressing subject as a mentally-retarded spastic child. The Wick Theatre company made it even harder in their production at the Barn, Southwick, of Peter Nicolls’ play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. They failed to capture the humour which abounds in the play.
Nicolls has written a moving play about a spastic girl. Her parents spend most of their lives play-acting to fight off the despair of not having a normal child. They give Joe Egg, as they call her, different personalities and act the tragic circumstances off her handicap with humour. But George Porter’s direction was slow and unsympathetic.
Actors David Creedon and Margaret Ockenden, as the parents, killed Nicolls’ witty dialogue and left me feeling acutely embarrassed instead of entertained. And having ruined the genuine humour of the first act they turn the dramatic climax into a French farce. The point where the father cracks up and tries to kill Joe by exposing her to the elements outside was a disaster. Characters rushed in and out of doors like a scene from a Whitehall farce and the tragedy and urgency of the drama was smothered in belly-laughs.
Tim Cara and Valerie Burt brought a touch of light relief in the second act as the friends who try to help Bri and Sheila cope with their frustration. Apart from his hideous pancake make-up, Mr. Cara was particularly convincing as the loud, blustering Freddie, trying to do good but only succeeding in getting up everyone’s noses. Miss Burt was suitably snobbish as the wife, reluctantly forced into forgetting about herself for a moment and sparing a thought for others. Frances Moulton turned in a cameo performance as Bri’s hen-pecking mother, not pausing to take breath once even when talking to herself.
But these cameos were not enough to save a production from being a second-rate attempt at performing a first-rate play.