Peter Nichols, Playwright Who Found Comedy in Desperation, Dies at 92


All told, Mr. Nichols wrote 17 staged plays, nearly two dozen television plays and one episode of the “Inspector Morse” series.

Mr. Nichols resisted critical or academic attempts to sum up his craft or discern particular themes in his work, explaining that his aim was “always to be an intelligent entertainer,” adding, “I believe entertainment is good in itself and anything else is a bonus.”

Humor almost always found a place in his plays, sometimes expressed in vaudeville style, but behind the laughter lay shrewd, often acerbic, sometimes discomforting observations: of the family, of marriage, of human foible, of Britain’s colonial past, of the state of Britain itself.

Peter Richard Nichols was born in Bristol, England, on July 11, 1927, to Richard George Nichols, a sales representative, and Violet Annie Poole, a homemaker who gave piano lessons at home. He often went to the theater with his father, who had been asked by his brother, a London-based theatrical agent, to look for promising performers. Those visits left him stage-struck and determined to pursue a theatrical career.

After military service, Mr. Nichols enrolled in the Bristol Old Vic Theater School, where, by his own admission, his acting wasn’t highly regarded. He went on to appear in the provinces in mostly minor roles, though he once played the lead in an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” in Aberdeen; the newspaper headline of the review that followed read, “Count Dracula No Longer So Fearsome.”

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