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A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg

At the end of the 1960s Anne appeared at Leicester in the moving but controversial play A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg. To show that we don’t publish only the complimentary material about Anne & Peter, check out the unflattering photo which accompanied this nice review!

You’ll Either Laugh Or Cry At This Play

The idea of a comedy about the tragedy of a spastic child written by the father of a spastic, sounds sick and thoroughly distasteful.

That is, until you have seen the production of Peter Nichols’ “A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg”, at Leicester’s Phoenix Theatre.

For this play is warm, touching and humorous. And while at times it reaches the height of comedy, it never loses touch with the deep tragedy that the birth of a spastic can bring into a family.

Around the everyday problems, and the reactions of outsiders, Peter Nichols has cleverly built this play to appeal to the opposing extremes of human emotion.

And he also portrays the terrible dilemma of the parents, and the ridiculous way in which they each try to overcome or forget their problem.

This production, directed by Michael Bakewell, leads up to a finale steeped in sadness and poignancy. Ironically, it is then that the parents find what could be a solution, but by then the problem has smashed the relationship.

Warm Touch

Making a return to the Phoenix, Douglas Fisher superbly portrays the father. As a teacher, a father, a husband and a man Bri has failed - Doug Fisher displays this in a mature and moving manner, yet he never fails to exploit the comic side of this insecure character.


Anne Stallybrass and Douglas Fisher as Sheila and Bri, parents of the spastic child in Peter Nichols’ play, “A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg” at the Phoenix Theatre 

Anne Stallybrass adds a warm and homely touch to the part of the mother - a woman who has to live with a promiscuous past, and who has inflicted on herself the punishment of looking after the vegetable that is her child.

She is particularly moving at the end, when she makes a compromise with her husband’s hardened attitude towards the child and herself - unaware that Bri has already decided to abandon the family.

In brilliant contrast to the parents are Stephen MacDonald and Lesley Nunnerley as the do-gooding couple who try to help (or ruin) matters.

And the spastic Joe is well-presented by Frances Alger - who knocks seven years off her age to become the limp, helpless “weirdy”.

Who is Joe Egg then? Well, it’s probably not so much the child, but the people and set-up around her. These certainly are the things which are destroyed in the play, while Joe herself is left to continue existing.

Aided by an excellent set, designed by Franco Colavecchia, this production really touches the nerve centre of emotion. And sick? Certainly not - you’ll either laugh or cry, and probably both.

Leicester Mercury
26 February 1969
 

We believe it was after this performance that Anne experienced several months without acting work, taking temporary employment in a bank. Then, out of the blue, she was offered the role of Jane Seymour in The Six Wives Of Henry VIII.

Almost a year to the day after first playing Sheila, Anne returned to her home town to reprise the role, yet again receiving a good review.


 

Palace Play Controversial, But
Don’t Be Put Off - It’s A Good ‘Egg’

A really meaty play and two very fine leading performances make “A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg” at the Palace Theatre this week one of the most satisfying productions put on there for some time.

The story, centreing round the controversial theme of a young spastic girl and her parents who try to live her life for her, has been advertised as one likely to put off many theatregoers. In fact, there is plenty of rich, often racy, comedy combined well with pathos that has no artificiality in it.

William Lucas and Anne Stallybrass are both very rewarding to watch playing the well-created roles of the married couple. Peter Nichols’ dialogue is very natural, but lively, and all through there is no hint of false sentiment or preaching.

The extraordinarily difficult part of Joe is taken by Fiona Geraghty who, without over-acting or pulling punches, creates the right sense of being a vegetable.

Roger Rowland and Pamela Iles, as a second couple, are perhaps a bit less convincing, but there the author has taken the opportunity of turning them into types rather than more solid people to make his point. The same is true of Maryann Turner, who completes the cast as William Lucas’s mother.

Yet overall, the play makes a deep impression and avoids any cheapness.

If it isn’t to your taste there’s a nice jolly farce on next week to help you forget all about it.

Edward Mason
Southend Standard
5 March 1970

Theatre 60s

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