Skip to main content

A Day In The Death of Joe Egg

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
If Ricky Gervais wants a few tips on what constitutes real artistic
taboo-breaking, he should perhaps consider attending Phillip Breen's
revival of Peter Nichols' dangerously black comedy. First presented on
the same stage forty-four years ago, this tale of a couple whose
freefall marriage is defined by their daughter's disability may be a
jazz-soundtracked period piece, but it retains more comedic edge than
much contemporary fare.

It begins with Miles Jupp's frustrated teacher Bri addressing the
audience as if we're an unruly end of afternoon classroom. Moving
indoors to his seemingly domestic bliss with Sarah Tansey's
highly-strung Sheila, it soon becomes clear the pair have constructed
an elaborate game centred around wheelchair-bound Joe. With such
survival strategies becoming increasingly exhausting, Sheila has taken
refuge in amateur dramatics, leaving Bri, hemmed in by his own
frustrated intelligence, to what turns out to be his own extreme
devices.

Breen's production flits between music hall archness and gut-wrenching
seriousness, something with which Jupp's own in-the-moment experience
as a stand-up helps sustain. All involved
speak out-front to the audience as if we're complicit in some voguish
group therapy. Even Sheila's ghastly am-dram pals get to say their
piece like drawing-room relics.

Nichols' one-liners are deadly, and Miriam Margolyes' cameo as Bri's
twin-set clad mum Grace is a masterclass in suburban grotesquery.
Combined, an increasingly desperate portrait emerges of a society
emotionally and institutionally ill-equipped to deal with anything out
of the ordinary. No change there, although let's hope this new era at
the Citz will open its doors to similarly provocative twentieth
century classics rarely done this side of the border.

The Herald, October 24th 2011

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …