Peter Nichols

Definition

Theater

  • (1927 - ) British author of dramas for bothtelevision and the stage. Of his often strongly autobiographical worksNichols has said: "I can only write dialogue when I hear people'svoices in my mind," and "my writing...comes frommemory and imitation". Although several of Nichols's plays dealwith the anguish of physical suffering, he denies that his visionof the world is a tragic one on the grounds that "my charactersmeet adversity cheerfully and humorously". Roger Woodis hasnoted of Nichols that "he disturbs us because he is honest.He is a worried man, and that is his strength."

    Nichols's best-known work, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg(1967), reflects his own experience of caring for a severely handicappeddaughter. His black comedy The National Health (1969) contrastsglamorous hospital soaps with the reality of a ward for the terminallyill. A series of successful and critically praised works followed,notably Forget-me-not-Lane (1971), in which Nichols recallshis adolescence, the musical Privates on Parade (1977), whichstarred Denis Quilley as a captain in a song-and-dance military unit,the comedy Born in the Gardens (1979), with Beryl Reid as aneccentric widow, Passion Play (1980) a tragicomedy aboutmarriage, and Poppy (1982), an idiosyncratic musical aboutBritain's involvement in the Opium Wars with China. However, owingin part to Nichols's reputation as a difficult man to work with,few of his later plays have reached the London stage. A Piece ofMy Mind (1986) is a partly autobiographical piece about a novelistwith writers' block, while Blue Murder (1995) is a play aboutputting on a play. The early 2000s saw a resurgence of interest in Nichols's work, with several high-profile West End revivals, includingan award-winning Privates on Parade at the Donmar Warehouse (2001).

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