Joe Egg playwright Peter Nichols dies aged 92

Playwright Peter Nichols, known for writing comedy plays such as A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, has passed away aged 92.

In a statement issued by his agent, it was announced that Nichols passed away peacefully on Saturday morning in Oxford with his wife Thelma by his bedside.

Born in Bristol in 1927, Nichols studied at Bristol Grammar School and Old Vic Theatre School, before leaving for National Service in India, Malaya and Hong Kong. Upon his return, he acted in repertory theatre and television for several years, before turning to teaching in London.

His early plays, Promenade and Ben Spray, were written for Granada Television in 1959 and 1960 respectively. His first full play for the stage came in 1967, when A Day in the Death of Joe Egg was performed at Citizens Theatre in Glasgow in 1967.

The comedy was partly autobiographical, with Joe Egg - which chronicles the struggles of two parents raising a daughter with cerebral palsy – drawing on his own experiences of raising a handicapped child. His first child, 11-year-old Abigail, spent most of her life in hospital.

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg was a success, and following its production in the ‘60s, it transferred to Broadway, where it was been revived twice, earning a Tony Award for best reproduction of a play in 1985 (and receiving nominations for best play in 1968 and best revival of a play in 2003).

Other successes followed, including The National Health (a black comedy about an underfunded NHS hospital), Privates On Parade (a farce set at a military concert party in Malaysia in the 40s), and Poppy (a musical set during the First Opium War in the 1830s).

In a statement, Harold Panter, who is currently producing a production of Joe Egg to open in London this month, said: “As the company rehearse Joe Egg - his funny, moving and perhaps greatest masterpiece - ahead of its West End opening next week, Peter to his very last was emailing notes and involved in the production as he had always done. We are so pleased we have been in rehearsals for long enough for the company to hear from Peter his experience of bringing up his daughter and how that informed Joe Egg. Bringing the authenticity that was a hallmark of Peter’s work.

“He suffered both great joy and tragedy in his life and from these experiences he could create the vivid relationships we see in his work. Peter was the true master of wit and pathos.“

In 2018, Nichols was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the New Years Honours for services to drama. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Photo credit: TheaterTalk (YouTube)

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