Adrian Lukis stars in this one man memoir of one of literature’s most infamous rogues
Adrian Lukis, who famously played Mr Wickham in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, brings to life the rake himself once more in Being Mr Wickham, only this time it’s his 60th birthday, we’re now in Victorian England, and he’s reminiscing about times gone by. Still married to Lydia, still enjoying a bit of drama and a flirtation – just how much has Wickham changed since we left him at the end of the novel?
If you’re much like me, you’ll have found yourself staying away from live theatre streaming – I struggled with the National Theatre on demand streamings early in Lockdown one, as they never quite captured the essence of “real” theatre. But, while I’m in the midst of a Pride and Prejudice whirlwind, this production from Original Theatre was too much to resist.
And how glad I am that I bought that ticket. In a pre show interview with director Guy Unsworth, he explans that this isn’t a show that was designed for the stage then simply filmed, it was filmed absolutely with the digital audience in mind – and that is clear from the way that Lukis’ Wickham looks through the camera lens and tells his story directly to you. It felt intimate, but never overwhelmingly so – perfectly striking the right tone to draw you in but never so far as to be uncomfortable. The combination of Lukis’ gentle and relaxed portrayal, and the clever use of the multiple cameras, meant that, despite me sitting on my bed with my computer on my lap, I felt I could have been in that study, enjoying a brandy with a dear friend and reliving times gone by.
Designer Libby Watson‘s set is ingenious and gorgeous in its subtly and simplicity – one second we’re at Wickham’s desk, the next the depths of his mind as he remembers his military career, without moving more than a few paces. The backdrop of the auditorium of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds was a lovely touch, as were the ghost lights that bookended the production.
The story itself, from Lukis and Catherine Curzon is not only beautifully written, but clearly from two people with a lot of love for this character, and the world from which he hails. There are plenty of little nods in there for the Austen aficionados (Fordyce’s Sermons being a personal favourite…) and just enough highlights of the plot of Pride and Prejudice to act as reminders for casual fans of the book.
Whether I believe Wickham’s version of the story is another matter – is this really Wickham claiming his defence, or just once again embellishing stories with his trademark wit and charm? Or has he simply told his lies so many times that he now believes them too? That uncertainty is one of the stand out elements of this production – and judging by the many people who asked a similar question during the post show Q&A, I’m not alone in thinking it! Wickham’s duplicity is what makes his character as memorable as it is, so to weave that seemingly effortlessly throughout is to be applauded.
Mr Wickham is remembered as a villain, the baddie in a world of Mr Darcys and Mr Bingleys, but was he really? Lukis puts up a good battle for his character – he’s not a respectable character, nor did he ever attempt to be – but there is a very human side of Wickham in this tale that, even if you don’t believe his stories are entirely truthful, you’ll find yourself warming to. His lust for life, his dalliances, friendships, his experience of war, and even his heartfelt regrets, all make for a fully rounded, and genuinely likable, Mr Wickham. Perhaps that was his plan all along… Either way, who wouldn’t want to spend an hour with the company and undivided attention of the ever charming Mr George Wickham?
Being Mr Wickham is due to tour later this year, and a recording of the live stream will be available On Demand from Original Theatre from May 11 2021. #BeingMrWickham
Disclaimer: I bought a ticket for this production, and very glad I did. Support your local theatre.