A frank and remarkable play based on the author’s experience of having a disabled child, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is about two parents caring for their 10-year-old girl Josephine.
Since birth Josephine has not been able to move or speak, and experiences frequent debilitating fits. Her father Bri, a weary schoolteacher, relies on desperate black humour to deal with the situation, while her mother Sheila still nurses hopes of a miraculous recovery.
In the first act the couple play out, for the audience’s benefit, the various scenes of condolence visited upon them by doctors and vicars, in comic routines that seem sadly well-rehearsed. The second act introduces another couple and Bri’s mother, creating an awkward sitting-room comedy that confronts the secret angers and fantasies of a family struggling to cope. The play’s treatment of taboos surrounding disability provokes both laughter and shock in the same moment, as the couple’s persistent jokes fail to disguise the strain placed on their marriage.
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg was first performed in 1967 at the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow.