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Subject: Playwright Peter Nichols

Dies at 92
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Date Posted: Monday, September 09, 08:04:29am

Peter Nichols, playwright best known for Joe Egg, dies aged 92

The playwright Peter Nichols, who was best known for his anarchic, acerbic and semi-autobiographical black comedies, has died at the age of 92. His agent, Alan Brodie, confirmed that Nichols died on Saturday in Oxford.

Nichols had a hit in 1967 with A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, about a married couple raising their daughter who is severely disabled. The play debuted at the Citizens theatre in Glasgow then transferred to the West End in London and to Broadway, where it was nominated for four Tony awards. For this ground-breaking drama about disability, Nichols drew upon the early years of his marriage and the life of his eldest daughter, Abigail. “She went into hospital at four and stayed there till she died,” Nichols said, describing her life as “a sort of living death”. The play was adapted for a 1972 film, has had several high-profile revivals and returns to the West End this month in a new production at the Trafalgar Studios in London, directed by Simon Evans and starring Toby Stephens, Claire Skinner and Patricia Hodge.

Nichols was born on 31 July 1927 and grew up in Bristol where he studied acting at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school. He would later play roles including Dracula, and have a stint as a teacher, before focusing on writing. Nichols did his national service with the RAF and was a wartime entertainer alongside Kenneth Williams with the Combined Services Entertainment unit in Singapore, putting on revues and sketches. That experience inspired his 1977 tragi-farcical musical Privates on Parade, which was first staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company and later became a film starring John Cleese. The traditions of music hall and vaudeville remained an influence throughout his career. The RSC also put on his Passion Play, about infidelity, in 1980 and the musical Poppy, about the 19th-century opium wars, in 1982. His other plays included The National Health, a satire of hospital politics; So Long Life, which he sardonically deemed “sub-Chekhov”; and Lingua Franca, which drew upon his own experiences of teaching English as a foreign language.

As well as screen adaptations of his plays, Nichols wrote the film Having a Wild Weekend, starring the Dave Clark Five, and co-wrote the 1966 swinging London film Georgy Girl. There were also novels, short stories, hugely entertaining memoirs and a number of unproduced plays. He increasingly felt he had become an outsider, his plays underperformed. In a 2001 diary for the Observer he noted: “Review in Oxford paper of A Day in the Life of Joe Egg. Serves me right. We can expect someone soon to be talking about Pirates on Parade.”

Six years later he told the Guardian: “They’re not doing my plays very much any more and that’s been a source of great misery.” However, to mark his 80th birthday, his play Forget-Me-Not-Lane was revived by the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough and the Orange Tree in Richmond, while Privates on Parade was staged at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Birmingham Rep. Joe Egg has been revived several times, including with Clive Owen, Miles Jupp and Eddie Izzard in the role of the schoolteacher father. His 90th birthday was celebrated with an evening at the British Library in conversation with special guests including Michael Grandage, who directed a celebrated production of Privates on Parade in 2012.

Nichols married Thelma Reed in 1960. She survives him, along with a son, Dan, and two daughters, Louise and Catherine.


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IMDb & IBDB-Monday, September 09, 08:05:02am
  • Pic -- ., Monday, September 09, 12:06:24pm

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