Play by Peter Nichols. A savage penetrating comedy that follows a young couple's struggle to deal with marriage, career, family, and caring for their disabled daughter Josephine, affectionately nicknamed 'Joe Egg'. As they try to make light of their situation, the parent's Bri and Shelia resort to humour and fantasy as a way to get through each day. A balance of deep compassion and rich humour, both hilarious and heartbreaking, this vitally important story will pierce your heart one moment, and fill it with warmth the next.
This play was adapted for a film in 1972 starring Alan Bates as 'Bri', Janet Suzman as 'Sheila', Sheila Gish as 'Pam', Peter Bowles as 'Freddie' , and Joan Hickson as 'Grace', with Elizabeth Robillard as 'Josephine' (AKA 'Joe Egg').
The 2019 West End revival was notable for casting Storme Toolis as the first actress with cerebral palsy to play the role of 'Joe Egg' in London.
Original West End London Production in 1967
Opened 20 July 1967, Closed 25 November 1967 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)
The cast featured Joe Melia as 'Bri', Zena Walker as 'Shelia', Phyllida Law as 'Pam', John Carson as 'Freddie', and Joan Hickson as 'Grace', with Elaine Mileham and Susan Porter sharing the role of 'Josephine' (AKA 'Joe Egg').
Directed by Michael Blakemore with designs by Robin Pidcock, and music by Andy Park.
Presented by the Glasgow Citizen's Theatre where this production was originally staged in May 1967.
London Revival at Greenwich Theatre in 1971
Previewed 1 December 1971, Opened 2 December 1971, Closed 18 December 1971 at the Greenwich Theatre
The cast featured Ray Brooks as 'Bri', Caroline Mortimer as 'Shelia', Hilda Braid as 'Pam', Michael Wynne as 'Freddie', and Constance Chapman as 'Grace'.
Directed by Peter Nichols.
London Revival at the King's Head Theatre in 1993
Previewed 1 June 1993, Opened 8 June 1993, Closed 11 July 1993 at the King's Head Theatre
The cast featured Clive Owen as 'Bri', Elizabeth Garvie as 'Sheila', Gabrielie Cowburn as 'Pam', John Warnaby as 'Freddie', and Pauline Delany as 'Grace', with Katey Crawford Kastin as 'Josephine' (AKA 'Joe Egg').
Directed by Lisa Forrell with designs by Michael Vale.
1st West End Revival at the Ambassadors Theatre in 2001
Previewed 25 September 2001, Opened 1 October 2001, Closed 24 November 2001 at the Ambassadors Theatre
Laurence Boswell's revival of Peter Nichols' play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg in London starring Clive Owen, Victoria Hamilton and Prunella Scales
The cast featured Clive Owen as 'Bri', Victoria Hamilton as 'Sheila', Robin Weaver as 'Pam', John Warnaby as 'Freddie', and Prunella Scales as 'Grace', with Catalina Blackman and Elizabeth Holmes-Gwillim sharing the role of 'Josephine' (AKA 'Joe Egg').
Directed by Laurence Boswell with designs by Es Devlin, lighting by Adam Silverman and sound by Fergus O'Hare.
"Clive Owen, fresh from his critical triumph in the film, Croupier, stars in this revival of an extraordinary play. A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is a landmark work from the Sixties and the first drama to depict a child with brain damage on stage. It's a black comedy, a disability version that might have been called No Spastics Please - We're British. Peter Nichols, its author, based it on his own experience of caring for his severely handicapped daughter, who died at the age of 11. Medically and theatrically, it is an evening of funny turns, all in poor taste and full of taboo disability words like 'cripple' and 'vegetable'. Speaking as the parent of my own Joe Egg, it is a very special play that does terrific service in 'outing' carers as ordinary human beings... Nichols exaggerates this life into a raucous vaudeville format, complete with a ghastly mother-in-law played by Prunella Scales... The despair in Clive Owen's performance registers way beneath the laughs. Director Laurence Boswell's production is immeasurably strengthened by Victoria Hamilton, fabulous as Joe's mum. The unstinting love you feel her pour into the girl lying in her lap, like some broken doll that can't be repaired, is an exquisite agony to watch. Then in a fantasy sequence the hideously afflicted Joe (Catalina Blackman) is made well and literally skips on to the stage, her parents' dream come true. A brief stage moment perhaps, but it's my most profound experience yet of the power of live theatre. Thirty years on this harrowing, hilarious play lives on because it is that rarest of things - a great comedy wrenched out of real life in all its crushing sadness." The Daily Express
"Why has no major London theatre produced Peter Nichols's A Day in the Death of Joe Egg since it hit the West End in 1967? It's funny, it's moving, it's intellectually stirring... The play took a taboo subject - how to cope with a profoundly brain-damaged child? - and it didn't whine, pine, rage, get melodramatic, strike social attitudes or descend into psychobabble. It did that astoundingly radical thing: try to tell the truth. If that still doesn't sound like a recipe for an absorbing, informative, entertaining evening, well, go see Laurence Boswell's production at the New Ambassadors." The Times
"When Peter Nichols' play about a severely handicapped child first exploded back in 1967, the stunned audience did not know whether to laugh or cry. Now, it's not nearly as shocking, but the sight of the limp little girl staring out from a wheelchair still makes people shift uncomfortably in their seats. Clive Owen is brilliant as Bri the schoolteacher dad who copes by making jokes and Victoria Hamilton gives a moving performance as his tortured wife Sheila, continually wondering what their ten-year-old daughter would have been like if she'd been born normal. It takes mute and twisted Joe Egg happily skipping around the stage to lift the underlying gloom." The Daily Mirror
"Joe Egg is by no means a period piece. Nichols's concern - the strategies and effects of coping with such a harrowing, demanding, living tragedy - is timeless. One of the play's most striking stylistic elements is the way in which the various characters speak directly to the audience... For Josephine's mother, Sheila, it's an overwhelming need to confide in somebody, anybody, because she is so desperately lonely, inhabiting a different emotional planet from her husband. Her husband, Brian (Clive Owen), copes (or doesn't cope) by retreating within a carapace of cynicism, treating the whole thing as a sick joke in an attempt to laugh away the pain. He mimics the Viennese doctor who referred to Josephine as a 'wedgetable' and then goes one step further, calling her a 'living parsnip'. He responds to his wife's pathetic excitement that Josephine might have moved her arm intentionally for the first time with a suggestion that they put her down for piano lessons. Childishly attention-seeking, he cannot compete with his daughter for his wife's focus, and the gap between them widens. As Sheila, Victoria Hamilton gives an award-winning, superbly detailed study of the human need for hope where there is only despair... Prunella Scales gives a nice little cameo as the granny who blames her defective grandchild on her daughter-in-law's dodgy genes and premarital promiscuity. Presumably it feels better than blaming her son. This brave, brilliant and harrowing play about mother love in its infinite variety is a classic and must not be missed." The Mail on Sunday
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Ambassadors Theatre previewed from 25 September 2001, opened on 1 October 2001, and closed on 24 November 2001.
1st West End London Revival (re-cast) at the Comedy Theatre in 2001
Previewed 5 December 2001, Opened 11 December 2001, Closed 9 February 2002 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)
Laurence Boswell's revival of Peter Nichols' play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg in London starring Eddie Izzard, Victoria Hamilton and Prunella Scales
The cast featured Eddie Izzard as 'Bri', Victoria Hamilton as 'Sheila', Robin Weaver as 'Pam', John Warnaby as 'Freddie', and Prunella Scales as 'Grace', with Sophie Bleasdale and Elizabeth Holmes-Gwillim sharing the role of 'Josephine' (AKA 'Joe Egg').
Directed by Laurence Boswell with designs by Es Devlin, lighting by Adam Silverman and sound by Fergus O'Hare.
This production was broadcast on TV BBC4 on Wednesday 13 March 2002.
Laurence Boswell's West End credits include David Williamson's Up For Grabs (Wyndham's Theatre 2002).
This production, with Clive Owen as 'Bri', was originally staged at the Ambassadors Theatre in October 2001 - see above.
"Eddie Izzard has taken over from Clive Owen as Bri, the father of poor brain-damaged Joe in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. On balance, though there is not much in it, I preferred Owen. He has got more of the character's awkwardness. By contrast, Izzard can't help seeming rather cool. He is better, on the other hand, at suggesting the thwarted artist in Bri - and in any case, you soon stop comparing performances and find yourself caught up in the play as a whole, with its perfectly judged blend of comic and tragic, and in the excellence of Laurence Boswell's production. Victoria Hamilton continues to shine as Joe's mother; there is admirable support from John Warnaby, Robin Weaver and Prunella Scales." The Sunday Telegraph
"From the moment Eddie Izzard bounces on to the stage as Bri in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and tells the audience to shut up, we can see that this was an inspired bit of casting. Izzard replaces Clive Owen in the part, but he is of course known as a stand-up comic who specialises in surreal flights of fancy. He brings to Laurence Boswell's fine production his intuitive comic timing and a wonderful rapport with the audience, which make the vaudevillian streak in Peter Nichols' play work. He is also entirely at home with his character's switches into impersonation as he tells the story of his life. And he convinces as a man whose response to pain has been to joke it away - so much so that he is now trapped by his own defence mechanism.... The supporting cast is excellent. Prunella Scales is a delight as Bri's over-protective mother, and John Warnaby and Robin Weaver are very good as the clumsily well-meaning friend, Freddie, and his ghastly, self-centred wife, whose alternative proposals for Josephine make you see Bri and Sheila in perspective. But the performance of the evening is that of Victoria Hamilton as Sheila. Funny, warm, vulnerable and yet resilient, this is a wonderful and moving performance... This is a fine production of a still-potent play." The Financial Times
"Eddie Izzard is in his element when addressing the audience or role-playing past experiences with an incompetent GP, Viennese paediatrician and trendy vicar. At times he can display childish glee for silly pranks, then slide into an almost hippie-like vagueness as if tuning out his pain... In the less vaudevillian second act... Izzard seems a slightly underpowered presence. Yet he always plays wonderfully with Victoria Hamilton's Sheila, whose constant anxiety and dogged optimism that her daughter will get better make for a heartbreaking combination... Hamilton provides the emotional anchor for Laurence Boswell's production. It's a moving and must-see performance in a play whose blend of unsentimental humour and stress-induced cruelty still has its powerful moments." The Times
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 5 December 2001, opened on 11 December 2001, and closed on 9 February 2002
London Revival at the Kingston Rose Theatre in 2013
Opened 30 April 2013, Closed 18 May 2013 at the Rose Theatre Kingston
The cast featured Ralf Little as 'Bri', Rebecca Johnson as 'Sheila', Sally Tatum as 'Pam', Owen Oakeshott as 'Freddie', and Marjorie Yates as 'Grace', with Jessica Bastick-Vines as 'Josephine' (AKA 'Joe Egg').
Directed by Stephen Unwin with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Paul Anderson, music by Corin Buckeridge, and sound by John Leonard.
A co-production between the Rose Theatre Kingston and the Liverpool Playhouse, where this production was originally seen - previewed from 5 April 2013, opened 10 Apil 2013, and closed on 27 April 2013.
2nd West End London Revival at the Trafalgar Studios in 2019
Previewed 21 September 2019, Opened 2 October 2019, Closed 30 November 2019 at the Trafalgar Studio 1 (now Trafalgar Theatre)
A major new revival of Peter Nichols' play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg in London starring Toby Stephens, Claire Skinner and Patricia Hodge
The cast features Toby Stephens as 'Bri', Claire Skinner as 'Sheila', Patricia Hodge as 'Grace', and Storme Toolis as 'Josephine' (AKA 'Joe Egg'), with Clarence Smith as 'Freddie', Lucy Eaton as 'Pam'. Directed by Simon Evans with designs by Peter McKintosh, lighting by Prema Mehta, and music and sound by Edward Lewis.
Storme Toolis is the first actress with cerebral palsy to play the role of 'Joe Egg' in London.
When this production opened at the Trafalgar Studios in London's West End in October 2019, Claire Allfree in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "Simon Evans's super-starry production... the compassion and integrity of Peter Nichols's script wins through. It's a bleakly moving evening." Nick Curtis in the London Evening Standard explained how "Peter Nichols's play was groundbreaking in 1967 and remains heartbreaking and savagely funny today... Simon Evans' pin-sharp revival features a bravura performance from Toby Stephens and a positively radiant one from Claire Skinner... Stephens shows us the fear beneath Bri's showy bravado and is lacerating in the final scenes. Skinner shines, making a saintly character magnetic and witty." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail described how "the joy of the play is that it's not agonising or constipated. It heaves with theatricality, and bursts with desperate humour... it's the pathos and dignity of Storme Toolis as the silent disabled child, that forms the inscrutable emotional core, and guarantees that A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg is still a poignant play that cheers as much as it chastens." Dominic Maxwell in the Times commented that "although Simon Evans stages this revival with characteristic verve, it can't entirely escape being a period piece... Toby Stephens gives a bravura turn as Bri... Claire Skinner is every bit as striking as the quieter Sheila... This Joe Egg impresses rather than devastates. Half a century on, its formal and emotional breakthroughs can't always disguise a sluggishness in its storytelling... Storme Toolis makes a terrific West End debut." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times said that, "while Claire Skinner's bright and gentle Sheila retains hope for her daughter, it becomes clear that, behind his breezy, sarcastic front, Bri is not coping. Stephens pitches his performance precisely, so you become gradually aware of the desperation behind the wisecracks and role-play."
Toby Stephens' London stage credits include the roles of 'Terje Rød-Larsen' in Bartlett Sher's production of J.T. Rogers' Oslo at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre and transfer to the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2017; 'Elyot Chase' in Jonathan Kent's revival of Noel Coward's Private Lives at the Gielgud Theatre in 2013; 'Henry' in Anna Mackmin's revival of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing at the Old Vic Theatre in 2010; 'Homer' in Jonathan Kent's revival of William Wycherley's The Country Wife at the Haymarket Theatre in 2007; the title role in Michael Boyd's revival of Shakespeare's Hamlet, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2004; 'Anthony Cavendish' in Peter Hall's revival of Edna Ferber and George S Kaufman's The Royal Family at the Haymarket Theatre in 2001; 'Claudio' in Steven Pimlott's revival of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the Barbican Theatre in 1995; and 'Damis' in Peter Hall's revival of Moliere's Tartuffe at the Playhouse Theatre in 1991.
Claire Skinner's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Anne' in James Macdonald's production of Florian Zeller's The Father at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2015; 'Myra Bruhl' in Matthew Warchus' revival of Ira Levin's Deathtrap at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2010; 'Desdemona' in Sam Mendes's revival of Shakespeare's Othello at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre in 1997 and Lyttelton Theatres 1998; 'Laura Wingfield' in Sam Mendes' revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie at the Donmar Warehouse in 1995 and transfer to the Comedy Theatre in 1996; 'Bridget' in David Leveaux's production of Harold Pinter's Moonlight at the Almeida Theatre in 1993 and transfer to the Comedy Theatre in 1993; 'Cecily Cardew' in Nicholas Hytner's revival of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest at the Aldwych Theatre in 1993; and 'Isabella' in Trevor Nunn's revival of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at the Young Vic Theatre in 1992.
Patricia Hodge's London stage credits include the roles of 'Felicity, Countess of Marshwood' in Trevor Nunn's revival of Noel Coward's Relative Values at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2014; 'Bertha' in Matthew Warchus' revival of Marc Camoletti's Boeing Boeing at the Comedy Theatre in 2007; 'Lady Fidget' in Jonathan Kent's revival of William Wycherley's The Country Wife at the Haymarket Theatre in 2007; 'Dotty Otley' in Jeremy Sams' revival of Michael Frayn's Noises Off at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 2000 and transfer to the Piccadilly Theatre in 2001; 'Countess Charlotte Malcolm' in Sean Mathias' revival of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music at National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in 1995; 'Mrs Shankland' and 'Miss Railton-Bell' in Peter Hall's revival of Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables at the Albery Theatre in 1993; and 'Jane' in Michael Blakemore's production of Michael Frayn's Benefactors at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1984.
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg in London at the Trafalgar Studios previewed from 21 September 2019, opened on 2 October 2019, and closed on 30 November 2019