Peter Nichols, the British playwright whose play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg provided Albert Finney with his 1968 Broadway debut and did the same in 2003 for Eddie Izzard, died Sept. 7 in Oxford, England. He was 92.
His death was announced on Twitter by agent Alan Brodie Representation. A cause of death was not given.
In addition to Joe Egg, his most familiar play, Nichols’ credits include the 1972 film version starring Alan Bates and 1966’s Swinging London touchstone Georgy Girl starring Lynne Redgrave, Bates, Charlotte Rampling and James Mason.
Based on his own difficult experience as the father of a daughter born with severe disabilities, Nichols’ A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg – Joe was short for Josephine – used broad, music-hall style comedy to tell the story of a married couple struggling to care for their daughter with cerebral palsy. With the jarring use of dark comedy to avoid sentimentality, Joe Egg included scenes in which the girl’s father fantasizes about killing both himself and his daughter. (Nichols’ disabled daughter Abigail died in childhood).
Premiering in ’67 at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre in Scotland, Joe Egg soon made a West End transfer and, the following year, moved to Broadway with Finney making his debut and earning the actor a Tony Award nomination (one of three nominations for the production that also included Best Play).
The often-staged play was revived in London in 2001 with a production starring Clive Owen and Victoria Hamilton. Izzard took over the lead role from Owen when the production moved to Broadway two years later. Toby Stephens and Claire Skinner are set to star in a new London revival later this month.
Nichols’ numerous other stage credits include 1969’s The National Health (another semi-autobiographical dark comedy that scored a Tony nomination for its 1975 Broadway debut) and 1971’s Forget-Me-Not Lane. His 1977 musical Privates on Parade, inspired by his own military service, won an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.
On the film side, Nichols got his start with 1965’s Catch Us if You Can (released in the U.S. as Having A Wild Weekend) starring British Invasion hit makers the Dave Clark Five. Directed by Nichols’ friend John Boorman in his feature film debut, the film was initially dismissed as a Hard Day’s Night rip-off but has gained both a following and respect over the years.
A year later came Georgy Girl, based on the novel by Margaret Forster (who shares a screenplay credit with Nichols). Directed by Silvio Narizzano, the film, though not Redgrave’s first, made an international star of the Oscar-nominated actress (she got the role after sister Vanessa passed). Also nominated were Mason, the cinematography and the smash hit title song (performed by The Seekers).
Nichols, born in Bristol, England in 1927, is survived by his wife of 59 years, Thelma Reed, three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.