Thursday 4 April 2013

Peter Nichols: Still Feeling He's Behind

It was good to hear the playwright Peter Nichols, now 85, being interviewed on the radio this morning - and to learn that a new West End production of his Passion Play is under way. Nichols was deservedly successful for 15 years - quite a long run for a stage playwright - from A Day in the Death of Joe Egg to the ill-fated, much-slated Poppy - since when, as they say in Hollywood, he hasn't been able to get arrested. That is to say, no London productions of new plays, and much of his work simply turned down. Unlike most playwrights, he hasn't made the obvious move into screenwriting, but persisted in his craft, despite every setback. By his own admission, he hasn't 'managed his career well'; in particular, he feels himself something of a stranger in a strange land, a survivor of an age of modesty, when the form was to be self-deprecating about one's achievements; now everyone - no matter how tiny their talent - is fiercely self-promoting, proclaiming their own greatness, and, as often as not, being taken at their own valuation. This is a huge cultural shift that I've observed, somewhat aghast, in my own lifetime - in fact, in just a few decades of it, and it's one of the many reasons I'm glad not be young now: I'd be having to 'sell myself' (ghastly thought). The English - or certainly the younger among them - have been transformed from the modest, self-deprecating, stoical, emotionally restrained, instinctively polite race of a few decades ago into the polar opposite of all that. And one of the effects has been that those who, like Nichols, haven't given thought to self-promotion and 'managing' their careers, have tended to go to the wall. Let's hope the new production of Passion Play will lead to a wider revival of his work.
Meanwhile, I can recommend Nichols's very funny, gloriously titled autobiography, Feeling You're Behind - available, I note, for 1p on Amazon. Hurry hurry while stocks last... 


  1. Joey Joe Joe Jr.4 April 2013 at 22:18

    There's a production of Joe Egg on at Liverpool Playhouse this month. I've not seen any of Peter Nichols' plays so I shall give it a whirl. In fact I should increase my cultural activities in general if I am ever to escape the hell of my hoi polloi pre-proletariat existence (Yes, I'm still feeling aggrieved about the results of yesterday's class questionnaire.)

  2. don't worry joey, we are all in a Class of our Own!