I've just watched 'A Day in the Death of Joe Egg' on BBC4 and felt that it was such a marvellous piece of work, *someone* had to write about it
'A Day in the Death of Joe Egg' is a black comedy by Peter Nichols which was first brought to the stage in 1967. It's story concerns a young family, the Egg's, which consists of the schoolteacher Bri, his wife Sheila, and their severely mentally handicapped daughter, Joe.
The structure of the play is fantastic, with the first act setting the story of the young couple with this terrific strain on their relationship, in the form of Joe. It soon progresses to a series of flashbacks to the early days of Joe's life, when they found out how much of a 'wegtable' as the Viennese doctor describes her, she will be, and the help they recieved from their local 'trendy vicar' The parents accept their lot, but compensate for Joe's lack of response, inventing conversations and personality traits for the child even though she is totally unable to communicate, and spends most her time throwing fits. Bri tries to deal with the stress by applying his particularly twisted sense of humour, and Shelia escapes to her Amateur Dramatics group.
The second act sees the introduction of the Freddie and Pam, who are friends of Shelia from her theatre group. Freddie is a typical do-gooder, helping the worse-off because 'it's the done thing' and is accompanied by his ghastly wife Pam, who is repulsed by sick people, or anything else that falls into he catagory N.P.A (Not Physically Attractive). Just to add spice to the mix, Bri's interfering mother turns up, and makes it obvious that she blames Sheila's philandering past as the cause of the couples 'curse'. Tensions come to a head, and Bri tries to let Joe die by withdrawing her medicine and leaving her in the cold to die, but Sheila frantically tries to save her daughter and rushes her to hospital. The play ends with Bri sneaking out of the house, unable to cope any longer and unable to tell Sheila that he is leaving the marriage.
I would be the last to say that I'm any sort of theatrical critic, but this genuinely moved me, and made me re-assess the way we as a society view handicapped people. If you get a chance watch this play, do so. It's nothing short of fantastic