What came first, the Joe or the Egg? Top 10 Joe Egg Facts
| By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels
(Updated on Nov 13, 2019)
Peter Nichol's black comedy Joe Egg is set to re-hatch at London's Trafalgar Studios this September for a limited season. Starring Oslo actor Toby Stephens and award-winning The Glass Menagerie actress Claire Skinner, this upcoming revival of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg marks the show's first staging in nearly 15 years and its dark subject matter is set to resonate with a whole new generation of theatregoers. With the West End opening just around the corner, we've decided to crack open Joe Egg and its origins.
Here is our list for the top ten facts about A Day in the Death of Joe Egg you probably didn't know.
Top 10 A Day in the Death of Joe Egg facts
1. It was once a bad egg. The material was considered too controversial and producers wouldn't even entertain the thought of staging the play. Peter Nichols allegedly sent the script for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg to dozens of West End and London theatres, including the Royal Court and Hampstead Theatre, but they all rejected it. Talk about rough beginnings.
2. The Citizens Theatre in Glasgow was Plan Z. Nichols sent the script for Joe Egg to the Scottish theatre only as a last resort. And even then after the script landed in the hands of the play-selecting committee in the summer of 1966, it wasn't smooth sailing.
3. There was a dispute on the Citizens Theatre play-selecting committee. The board's Vice-Chairman Tom Taylor labelled the play a "disgrace" and claimed that it was cruelly making fun of the disabled. In short, it was an "offensive play." In contrast, Tony Paterson, another member of the board, called Joe Egg "remarkable" and even praised Nichols' use of "off-beat" dialogue. Eventually, after long deliberation, the play was given the green light on the condition that all of its promotional material would feature a disclaimer of the controversial content.
4. There was great tension leading up to the show's premiere. The play didn't receive the final go-ahead until the very last minute. Despite being approved by the committee, the play ran into censorship issues as the Lord Chamberlain attempted to tweak much of the play's language and action. Had it not been granted a final approval, many of the show's cast members from London would have travelled to Glasgow for rehearsals in vain.
5. A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is Vaudevillian in nature. The original Citizens Theatre production featured a live, four-piece jazz band that was comprised of a percussionist, flautist, bassist, and pianist, who performed the show's score in a stage box on the side.
6. The play had a number of working titles. The most notable working titles included No Room at the Quality Inn; Life's Too Short; and Since You Came Along. Nichols felt the latter working title was less jarring but also "cooler" than the play's current title.
7. London theatres came crawling back to Nichols after the play's overwhelming success in Scotland. Only after the highly acclaimed 1967 Glasgow premiere did the Royal Shakespeare Company see "dollar signs." The Director of the RSC reportedly asked Nichols why he had never sent them the script, to which Nichols replied that he did send it but they never responded. It later eventually transferred to the West End's Comedy Theatre (now known as the Harold Pinter Theatre) that same year.
8. Not one complaint filed. There were rumours leading up to the play's world premiere that something provocative was about to be staged at the Citizens Theatre. The disclaimers on the play's promotional material along with news headlines of the play running into censorship issues certainly didn't help the play's case. Nevertheless, despite the play's controversial themes and warnings, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg did not receive a single complaint from audiences.
9. It was marketed as an autobiography. In order to soften the play's controversial subject matter, producers advertised the play as an autobiography of Peter Nichols' life. The playwright and his wife had a disabled child named Abigail who unfortunately died at just the tender age of ten — the same age as the titular character, Joe Egg, in the play. Nichols is said to have used humour to cope with his emotions regarding his daughter Abigail and her death and the play Joe Egg was no exception to this coping mechanism.
10. Peter Nichols shed more than just a tear during the play's performance. Nichols despised the play being marketed as an autobiography. Yet, the performance brought tears to his eyes when he saw it. Wiping the tears from his face with a handkerchief, Nichols had finally unleashed his bottled-up emotions over the real-life Joe Egg — his daughter. Thus, perhaps "the Egg came first" before Nichols was finally able to cry for his long-lost "Joe."
Save up to £22 on tickets for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg!
You don't want to miss this touching play by Peter Nichols, which is set to be revived for a limited season at Trafalgar Studios from 21 September through 30 November 2019.
Bri (Toby Stephens) and Sheila (Claire Skinner) struggle to take care of their paralysed, 10-year-old daughter, Josephine, who was born with cerebral palsy and whom they now call Joe Egg. When Bri suspects Sheila of leaving him alone to care for Joe Egg by himself, he may just resort to taking drastic measures.
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🎟 Book tickets for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at Trafalgar Studios.