Bri, an amateur painter and a discontented and unsuccessful teacher in a comprehensive school, and his wife Sheila, a homemaker and part-time amateur actor, live in the southwestern suburbs of London. They are the parents of one child, a seriously physically impaired and mentally disabled girl, Josephine, or Joe Egg, now ten years old. In a brief opening scene, before the lights come up on the set, Bri, an exasperated schoolteacher, hectors his pupils for their unruly behavior. Then he leaves, and the lights reveal the setting for the rest of the play, the living room of Bri and Sheila’s house. This room is pleasant in an unpretentious way and would be unremarkable except for two personal touches: The walls are decorated with two of Bri’s paintings, both of cowboy subjects, and among the other articles of furniture is evidence of Sheila’s devotion to all living things—a bird in a cage, a tank with fish, and potted plants. A further sign of this devotion occurs in the first words Sheila speaks, as she shoos two cats out to the kitchen. The implied kitchen is reached through a workable doorway to one side, while a second workable doorway leads to a front hall with both the front door to the house and stairs going up.
Shortly before Christmas, Bri comes home from his day of teaching, cynical and frustrated with his occupation and, perhaps, his marriage and family. Bri and Sheila’s conversation reveals that Sheila, although she probably suffered more initially, has adjusted to being the parent of Joe Egg better than Bri has, but at the cost of having no time for Bri and of deluding herself with signs of improvement in Joe. Joe arrives in a wheelchair, having been brought home from her Spastics’ Nursery on the bus. Joe has no control over her legs and arms and has to be propped wherever she is put; in her chair she sits with the upper part of her body leaning forward on the tray. All she can say is “Aaah.” Bri and Sheila take good care of her physically, and this care is clearly habitual with both of them; also habitual is the way they cope psychologically with this difficult situation—by...
(The entire section is 865 words.)