Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Play still has power to move

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

The Nonentities

Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


ROSS WORKMAN'S fine production found the man in charge unexpectedly on stage on the first night, book in hand but managing admirably without consulting it for much of the time, when Mark Underhill was unable to appear as Freddie.

Freddie is the rich, well-meaning citizen with the most generous of hearts, and he is here because he and his wife Pam have been involved with Sheila in the first night of an amateur theatre company's play.

“Here” is not the easiest of places. It is the home of Sheila and Brian and their dreadfully incapacitated daughter, Josephine. Spastic is a word that is not in vogue today, but Peter Nichols wrote his black comedy in 1967, inspired by his experience in looking after his own daughter, and that was the word at the time.

Brian (Richard Taylor) is a teacher, and he launches the production with a veritable seven-minute  tour de force in which the audience becomes his class of unco-operative reprobates and finds itself repeatedly ordered to sit up, eyes front, and put its hands on its head. For Brian, it is a safety valve, just as are the successive near-awful jokes he delivers at home, where another defensive mechanism is to refer to Josephine as Crackpot.


There are intermittent occasions when the audience takes on the role of a father confessor, not only to Brian but to his wife and his mother. There are laughs – unfortunately including some misplaced ones in row G on the first night – that are largely inspired by the almost knockabout idiocy with which Sheila and Brian have built their protective shield against life's harsh reality.

Sinead Maffei is Sheila, playing along with Brian's comic turn, unwavering in her devotion to her daughter but eventually forced by the events of the evening into understandable panic. Victoria Wakeman is Pam. Squeamish Pam. Pam ill-prepared to meet Josephine. These are two splendidly-accomplished roles, and Sandy Tudor brings well-meaning buoyancy to Brian's overwhelming mother, Grace.

It is a production of provocative sincerity. At its centre, unspeaking and largely motionless, is the hapless Josephine, played on the first night by Luisa Holt, who is sharing the role with Katherine Ray. Heart-strings are tugged without the option.

This is an evening of stirring theatre. It is just a shame that the word says crops up so often, because it is pronounced incorrectly every time. It rhymes with Les, not lays. To 15.5.10.

John Slim

Box Office 01562 743745 

Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate