2 May 2013

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Rose Theatre (heart-breaking)

My plan to get to the Rose Theatre more often and I was back for my third visit this year to see A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.

The other reasons for going were the reputation of the play, i.e. I had heard of it, and it featured Ralph Little, who is still Jonny Keogh from Two Pints to me. Little is the fourth Two Pints actor who I have seen on the stage, just Will Mellor to go.

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is an unusual tale told unusually.

This is obvious from the very beginning when Little runs on to the stage and berates us as his misbehaving class. We are told to put our hands on our heads, which we do, as he runs through some familiar lines about us wasting our own time etc. He then pops out of the classroom saying that he'll be back in a minute but then we become the audience and we see him return home where is wife is waiting for him.

Little talks us to say that he is going to explain something and then the play within the story begins. There is a fair amount of talking directly to the audience by all the cast. In one memorable moment Little pops his head out of the kitchen door to ask his wife if she is talking to us about him.

It takes a while for us to learn that they have a daughter and a little while longer for us to see her. She is severely disabled, physically and mentally, and is in a chair.

The scene set, the play then pulls us in two directions at the same time. The core of the play is miserable but the storytelling is humorous.

Prejudice rumbles through the play like an unwelcome guest at a party. The couple are angry at the prejudice against their daughter, the wife's promiscuous past causes much comment and derogatory comments are made about people in council estates.

There are other tensions in the play too including a possible affair, a job that is a chore rather than a career, a possible murder and a marriage that seems tired and worn out by it all.

To lighten the mood these tensions are offset by the arrival of a couple of friends who could easily be the role models for Boycie and Marlene with their working class roots and new-money snobbery. And there are the cats in the kitchen.

The set highlights the chaotic nature of the story and the mixed play/narrative format with oddly shaped doors and windows in the room and a theatre curtain hanging over it. The direction enhances this with, for example, spotlights on the main characters when they are talking directly to us.

There is an awful lot going on in this production and it is all good (or better). This is easily the best thing that I have seen at the Rose Theatre so far.

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