By Gail Renard
Peter Nichols (pictured left) was a great playwright, television writer and also a valued WGGB member. He was best known for his groundbreaking play A Day In The Life Of Joe Egg, a black comedy about a couple struggling to keep their relationship alive while caring for their disabled child. It was based on real life and Nichols’ own experiences with his daughter Abigail. The play pushed the Lord Chamberlain’s office to the limit when they wanted him to use a dummy onstage instead of a real child. Nichols won.
He was also known for his plays Forget Me Not Lane, National Health and Privates On Parade, the story of a British concert party during the Malayan Emergency in the late 1940s, based on Nichols’ life. He had served in the Entertainments Forces along with Stanley Baxter and Kenneth Williams.
Nichols also wrote a splendid autobiography. Its title came from his father telling him to get on with life and develop the habit of “Feeling You’re Behind.”
Nichols wrote one-off plays for BBC and ITV when they still produced plays, and a single episode of ITV’s Inspector Morse, “Greeks Bearing Gifts”. Fellow Morse writer Russell Lewissaid: “It’s one of the finest Morses ever made. Questions were asked about [the episode] in the House of Commons. It dealt with a baby boy being dangled over a staircase void. The House thought it was done for real. Health and safety questions were asked.”
The irony is that this time it was a dummy and not a real child.
Peter Nichols pushed the boundaries in everything he wrote. He was a unique and courageous writer.