Jane Austen's most roguish gentleman takes to the stage

Adrian Lukis (Pride and Prejudice, BBC) once again stars as Pride and Prejudice’s most roguish gentleman, George Wickham.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 10:05 am
Adrian Lukis in Being Mr Wickham (photo James Findlay)
Adrian Lukis in Being Mr Wickham (photo James Findlay)

On the eve of his 60th birthday, Wickham is about to lift the sheets on exactly what happened, 30 years on from where we left him...

Being Mr Wickham is at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing on Thursday and Friday, October 21 and 22; and the Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford from Thursday to Saturday, October 28-30. What really happened with Darcy? What did he feel about Lizzie? What happened at Waterloo? And what about Byron?

Adrian, who played Wickham in the celebrated 1995 BBC mini-series, revisits the character now in a piece which he wrote with Catherine Curzon, directed by Guy Unsworth, from the award-winning Original Theatre Company.

As Adrian says, the simple tagline for the show is that George Wickham is setting the record straight.

“In the book, he is introduced as a charming man to whom all eyes are quickly drawn and who so far outshines the other officers when he walks into the room.

“He is a young officer attached to the militia, and the militia arrive and the young girls are quickly drawn to him. Elizabeth Bennett thinks he is a dreamboat.”

Wickham tells him how badly Darcy has behaved towards him.

“Elizabeth immediately springs to his defence saying that the appalling behaviour of Darcy must be exposed. But Wickham insists he is not a resentful man…”

In the end, of course, Darcy reveals his version of what actually happened. Adrian now offers another version.

“I have taken incidents in the book and I have reinterpreted them.

“This is Wickham justifying himself. The book is so well known that there are certain tales like the clergyman episode that people treat as gospel.

“I refute various well-known stories that we know from the book. All of the facts are reinterpreted.

“It is ‘Yes, I did go off with Lydia, but she was pursuing me and I could see that her virtue was going to fall to one of my fellow officers but that it was better that it should fall to me who could look after her.’

“It is not Wickham saying that he is an incredibly good guy.

“He admits that he did go to London and he spent as if there was no tomorrow, just spraying his money around, but he is saying that if you prefer to live like Darcy, then live like Darcy.”

His point is: who, though, would you rather spend an evening with?

Would you rather spend an evening with Wickham and his tales of “And then the husband came back and there was I hanging off the drainpipe” or with Darcy?

Would you rather spend an evening with Wickham who at the end of the night will reach for his wallet and offer to pay for everything before admitting ‘Oh I am so sorry, I seem to have left my wallet at home?’

“Or would you rather spend an evening with Darcy being Darcy?

Adrian is sure Jane Austen would enjoy the piece: “I think Miss Austen would have approved of the attempt to dive psychologically a little deeper into her character. I have seen the critiques saying Wickham is a bad guy and you have got to have a bad guy to show how good the good guys are, but I really don’t think that is quite fair.”

A thought which has given Adrian his licence to create Wickham’s back story…