Peter Nichols Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Peter Nichols is a prolific writer who is the author of dramatic works for motion pictures and television as well as for the stage. Among his many teleplays are A Walk on the Grass (1959), The Continuity Man (1963), and Daddy Kiss It Better (1969); he has adapted for the small screen works by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh. His film scripts include Georgy Girl (1966; with Margaret Foster; adaptation of her novel) and adaptations of his stage plays, The National Health (1973), Joe Egg (1971), Privates on Parade (1983). Nichols also published his autobiography, Feeling You’re Behind (1984), and three diaries: Diaries, 1969-1977 (2000).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Peter Nichols has risen rather slowly through the ranks of his profession, with even A Day in the Death of Joe Egg undergoing limited runs in the initial London and New York productions. Nevertheless, he has become internationally recognized as one of Great Britain’s leading playwrights, and his work has entered the standard repertory of professional, university, and community playhouses. His first official support came with an Arts Council Bursary, a small stipend, in 1961. With the first stage productions of his work, the awards began to accrue, including the John Whiting Award in 1969, four Evening Standard Best Play awards (1967, 1969, 1981, 1978), two Society of West End Theatres Best Musical awards (1978, 1983), the Ivor Novello Award for Best Musical Comedy (1977), the Tony Award for Best Revival (1985), and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award (1989). Though he has received limited critical attention, Nichols provides a rare blend of popular entertainment and intellectual challenge. Drawing on materials as diverse as English pantomime, military vaudeville, and intimate autobiography, Nichols has created plays with unique theatrical structures and intense, unusually extreme emotional effects. His work from the 1970’s has been anthologized as representative of the best in contemporary British drama. Because he has so well captured the spirit of the times and done so in such wide-ranging topics and genres, his place in the history of dramatic literature has been secured.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bull, John. “Peter Nichols.” In British and Irish Dramatists Since World War II, Third Series, edited by Bull. Vol. 245 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001. A thoughtful survey of Nichols’s plays.

Davison, Peter. Contemporary Drama and the Popular Dramatic Tradition in England. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1982. Davison surveys the use of popular theater in Nichols’s plays up to Privates on Parade, arguing for the complexity and value of his artistic achievement.

Foulkes, Richard. “The Cure Is Removal of Guilt: Faith, Fidelity, and Fertility in the Plays of Peter Nichols.” Modern Drama 29 (June, 1986): 207-215. Foulkes reviews the marital themes in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Chez Nous, and Passion Play, arguing for a common psychological pattern in all three plays’ central characters. Contains strong psychological criticism, which does not reduce the author’s consciousness to the same simple outline.

Miller, Brian. “Peter Nichols.” In British Television Drama, edited by George W. Brandt. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981. A survey of Nichols’s many excellent television plays. Well researched, with a modest appraisal of the material.

Nichols, Peter. “Peter Nichols on His Art, Politics, and Peers: An Interview.” Interview by William Demastes. Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 3 (Fall, 1988): 101-112. Nichols answers questions about his writing, his politics, and his position in the writing community, issues similar to those that later preoccupy him in A Piece of My Mind. Demastes does a thorough job of positioning Nichols in relation to other English dramatists.

O’Connor, Gary. “Peter Nichols.” In Contemporary Dramatists, edited by Thomas Riggs. 6th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1999. Contains a listing of the playwright’s work and a compressed critical discussion of six plays.

Parkin, Andrew. File on Nichols. London: Methuen, 1993. Detailed description of Nichols’s creative work including biographical information. A useful reference.

Wertheim, Albert. “The Modern British Homecoming Play.” Comparative Drama 19, no. 2 (1985): 151-165. Considers Born in the Gardens in relation to themes in plays by T. S. Eliot, Harold Pinter, and David Storey. The analysis takes for granted Nichols’s excellence and demonstrates the traditional quality of even his most personal writings.