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Peter Nichols, Groundbreaking Playwright of Joe Egg, Dies at 92

The British dramatist also wrote works including Privates on Parade.

Victoria Hamilton and Eddie Izzard in the 2003 Broadway revival of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.
(© Joan Marcus)

Tony-nominated British dramatist Peter Nichols has died at the age of 92.

Born July 31, 1927, in Bristol, Nichols studied acting at the theater school of the Bristol Old Vic. A wartime entertainer with the Combined Services Entertainment unit in Singapore, Nichols's major works were inspired by his own life experiences. His time with the CSE became the basis for his 1977 farcical musical Privates on Parade, which was first presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company and became a film that starred John Cleese. Lingua Franca, which had its American premiere as part of the 2010 Brits off-Broadway Festival at 59E59, was culled from his own work teaching English as a foreign language.

Nichols's biggest hit came in 1967 with A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, which told the story of a couple trying to save their marriage while raising a severely disabled daughter afflicted with cerebral palsy. The groundbreaking work, which was nominated for four Tonys upon its Broadway premiere in 1968, was inspired by Nichols's own experiences raising his developmentally handicapped daughter, Abigail, who died at the age of 10. Joe Egg was revived twice on Broadway, winning the 1985 Tony for Best Revival, and returns to the West End later this month in a new production starring Toby Stephens, Claire Skinner, and Patricia Hodge.

Nichols was awarded a CBE in 2018, and, over the course of his career, earned four Evening Standard Awards, two Ivor Novello Best Musical Awards, and Society of West End Theatres Awards for Best Comedy and Best Musical. He is survived by Thelma Reed, his wife of 59 years, as well as their children Dan, Louise, and Catherine.

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