A Day in the Death of Joe EggLeft - Julia Davis in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. Photo - Cameron Baird

The play currently on offer at the Darlinghurst Theatre is a revival of the sixties comedy ‘A Day in the Death of Joe Egg’, directed by Kim Hardwick. Without doubt it is a beautifully crafted work wonderfully staged and directed in this production.

The set design, by Alexandra Sommer, brought a lovely depth to a stage area that at other times has seemed confined. The period opalescent screens reflected rather poignantly the layers being explored within the play.

It is a play about hope and hopelessness, about life and death and coping and giving up. In this it is reminiscent of Tennessee Williams’ ‘Glass Menagerie’. A very different style of play to be sure, a different affliction, a different relationship and a different outcome but the same question: how long must we carry the burden allotted us, indeed are we obliged to take it up at all?

There are undoubtedly many side issues explored within the play some more pertinent than others but the plot line of this play is more than enough to keep our attention.

It is presented in the style of the Drawing Room Comedy, offspring of the Comedy of Manners and forebear of the Sit-com. The social issue is still strongly in evidence but the humour has broadened out from its more esoteric origins and it is probably the edginess of the humour as it balances against the pathos that refuses to allow the audience to become spectators.

The play has a curious structure. In it’s format it comprises a first act which is almost a two hander precariously shifting between pathos and pantomime and the second act comes alive with vividly drawn combatants who drive the play every which way while a tragedy seemingly unfolds in front of us.

The use of the ‘direct to audience’ delivery reserved to each of the characters does not form the usual opening into the character’s mind but rather is couched as a preconceived exposition shared aside between the character and the individual in the audience.

It is all geared to keep you slightly off balance so that while you may expect the outcome it still comes as a surprise and leaves you with the feeling of having unwittingly conspired in it.

Jonathan Gavin gives the most extraordinarily sustained and controlled performance as Bri, the father despairing of his given role and finding relief in farce. He never once drifts in the entire performance and some of the most touching moments in the play are reserved to those he spends alone with Joe when a rather bitter humour masks an even more bitter pain as he touchingly caresses her hair.

Julia Davis as Sheila was completely believable as the mother who has long since accepted her role in a life that she accepts has meaning in whatever form though at times she gave the impression of being somewhat disconnected. Special mention must be made of Kate Worsley in the title role of ‘Joe Egg’ whose hands are so expressive in stillness and who is so eloquent in silence. Her moment at the end of the first act in a brief image of what might have been nearly breaks your heart.

Susannah Hardy however as Pam, the wife of the industrialist cum amateur thespian, is something you only rarely see, an absolutely bitch that finds a home in us all. You can’t help but marvel at her performance, the timing was impeccable, the finesse of her gestures certain and her aplomb in delivery delightful.

Husband Freddie, played by Drew Fairley was an accomplished foil and Genevieve Mooy delivered a wonderful Grace, Bri’s coddling mother.

It is glorious theatre, the pace is sustained and the articulation and delivery precise and consistent. The accents wandered but since the play was hardly place specific it was not an issue.

It is the story of a seriously handicapped child and how the parents cope and others don’t. The dialogue is still tremendous fun as it weaves through the work dissecting fault, guilt, rejection and responsibility all with equal irreverence.

‘A Day in the Death of Joe Egg’ may not change you but it will reward you. For a moment you will see a picture of private humility. It’s a rare enough experience these days.

Whoosh Productions and Darlinghurst Theatre Company present
A Day In The Death of Joe Egg
By Peter Nichols

Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre Company 19 Greenknowe Avenue Potts Point
Dates: Wednesday 28 Feb to Saturday 24 March 2007
Times: Tuesday – Saturday 8pm Sunday 5pm
Tickets: Full $30, Concession $25, Preview/Subscribers $20
Bookings: 8356 9987 or online at www.darlinghursttheatre.com


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