Writers: Adrian Lukis, Catherine Curzon
Director: Guy Unsworth
For the second night running York Theatre Royal played host to an evening with an actor well known for a celebrated television role. But, whereas David Suchet discussed his career and acting technique as Poirot and in much else, Adrian Lukis again assumed the character of George Wickham from the 1995 television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Just as Lukis is 26 years older, so Wickham has aged. In Being Mr Wickham he is celebrating his 60th birthday – well, not celebrating too much as his wife Lydia (yes, they are still together – sort of) has caught him paying too much attention to another woman and has locked him out of the bedroom. Nevertheless he has a glass of something nice (claret, maybe?) and some new chums to talk to and, in a voice marinated in port, he reminisces and persuades.
The tale he has to tell is not a counter-factual history, simply a readjustment of focus. Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy is a man of honour, George Wickham’s Darcy is an insufferable prig. The pleasure-seekers of this world have a point of view. George Wickham’s is clear from his reaction to two contemporary events. The daughter of the house opposite is to be abducted by her lover – and Wickham, darting back to the drawing room window from time to time, merrily cheers them on. Then the famous courtesan, Harriette Wilson, has just died: this dates it to 1845. Wickham is grief-stricken at the news and vividly recalls seeing her and Lord Byron in Covent Garden – clearly they constitute his ideal, elevating wit and pleasure above moral probity.
Adrian Lukis has a confidential charm and convinces equally as he bemoans the onset of age or lights up at some remembered frolic. It is a delightful performance, but one still influenced to some extent by the live-streamed performance that garnered five-star reviews from the likes of Broadway World, so much meaning in a facial expression or a casual throwaway – very stylish, but especially geared to film. A play that does not overstay its welcome is to be applauded, but at York Being Mr. Wickham came in ten minutes under its already short running time of 70 minutes and felt very slight. The ever-obliging Mr. Lukis added a question and answer session to the evening’s entertainment.
It’s all done with wit and style, however, from Lukis and Catherine Curzon’s script to Guy Unsworth’s understated direction to Libby Watson’s corner-of-a-drawing-room set to, especially, Lukis’ twinkly and unrepentant George Wickham.