Playwright Peter Nichols, the Tony Award-nominated playwright of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, died September 7 in Oxford, England. He was 92.
The British-born playwright made his Broadway debut in 1968 with the play, which drew from his own experience as the parent of a severely handicapped daughter. Working with director Michael Blakemore, Mr. Nichols transformed his anguish into a resonant dark comedy that incorporated elements of farce and vaudeville.
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg premiered in 1967 at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland, prior to a West End transfer later that year. The production arrived on Broadway the following year, reuniting Blakemore with original cast members Zena Walker and Joan Hickson—in addition to Broadway newcomer Albert Finney.
The production earned four Tony Award nominations, including Best Play, Best Director, Best Actor for Finney, and Best Featured Actress for Walker, who won her category. Mr. Nichols adapted his script for a 1972 film adaptation.
The play has been revived numerous times on Broadway and in the West End since its premiere, most notably a 2001 revival starring Clive Owen and Victoria Hamilton, which transferred to Broadway in 2003 starring Eddie Izzard, earning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. A new London revival starring Toby Stephens and Claire Skinner begins previews September 21 at Trafalgar Studios.
The play’s autobiographical style and gallows humor became a hallmark of Mr. Nichols' work, which continued with The National Health in 1969. Based on his hospitalization for a collapsed lung, the play earned Mr. Nichols his second Best Play Tony nomination for the play’s 1975 Broadway premiere. The 1977 musical Privates on Parade, sourced from his time in the National Service Combined Services Entertainments Unit, won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.
His works also include the short-lived 1970 musical Georgy, and Passion Play for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1981, which was later produced on Broadway as Passion in 1985.
Peter Nichols was born July 11, 1927, in Bristol, England. He published his memoir, Diaries, in 1969, and was appointed CBE in 2018. Mr. Nichols is survived by his wife, Thelma; their children Dan, Louise, and Catherine; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.