REVIEW: Adrian Lukis in Being Mr Wickham, Original Theatre Company, Haunted Season, York Theatre Royal, today at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
TWO years ago, 25 years on from filming the BBC adaptation of Pride And Prejudice, actor Adrian Lukis started thinking about still being Mr Wickham, having “defended his dubious reputation” for so long.
What would have become of Jane Austen’s Georgian rogue George, or “What happens to a rake when he can’t rake anymore,” as Lukis asked himself?
Harper Lee revisited the characters of To Kill A Mockingbird in Go Set A Watchman; Danny Boyle’s 2017 film T2: Trainspotting picked up the story of Mark Renton, Sick Boy and co 20 years on; in this instance, the writing falls to Lukis and Georgian storyteller Catherine Curzon.
Refracting Austen’s vilified character through their shared lens for a one-man character study set 30 years down the line of worn time, Lukis’s Wickham is now 60, still charming, with aching knees and wife Lydia waiting in the bedroom, as he tells his side of the story.
Lukis reimagined him living in reduced circumstances, having gambled his way through his £3,000 pay-off from Darcy, no longer reliant on his looks and his wits, having left behind the dissolute London life. Maybe he was residing in Yeovil, or maybe running a small business in Malmesbury, definitely he was looking out of the window for the tittle-tattle of life across the way, so he told Thursday’s audience in the Q&A after the 75-minute performance.
Lukis constructed an earlier version of this monologue but found his ageing Wickham too sleazy. Lockdown enabled him and Curzon to create Wickham mark two: a rake raking over the coals and setting the record straight. Actors must always empathise with whoever they play, runs the advice to those playing the villain of the piece, and Lukis warms to that task with relish as he reacquaints himself with “my old friend”.
Yes, Wickham was “a bit of player”, yes he behaved badly, even disgracefully on occasion, but as Lukis said afterwards, but wouldn’t you rather have a night out with gorgeous, affable George than Darcy?
Significantly, Lukis said he treated this Wickham as a new character when writing and playing him, rather than as the Austen rogue he played in Andrew Davies’s adaptation. What emerges is a story of loss, exits; his rueful reflections on Elizabeth Bennet, Darcy and Lord Byron; the blood, the smell, the gore, of the Waterloo battlefield. What has Wickham achieved at 60? He has survived, he says. He has survived, he repeated.
Being Mr Wickham is beautifully detailed, from the elaborate Georgian phrasing of Lukis and Curzon to Libby Watson’s faded drawing room design, to Guy Unsworth’s immaculately composed direction and Lukis’s eloquent, elegant performance.
Life with a scandalous scoundrel is never dull and it certainly still isn’t in Being Mr Wickham, even if the heat has gone out of the day and those knees are aching ever more.
One last story from the Q&A: when first meeting for filming, actress Susannah Harker (Jane Bennet) misheard Lukis, thinking he said he was the wig man and promptly asking him to make adjustments. No, he would be playing Mr Wickham, he corrected her, and he is still being Mr Wickham to charming effect all these years later.
AUTUMN’S fruits are ripe and ready for Charles Hutchinson to pick with no worries about shortages.
Scandal of the week: Being Mr Wickham, Original Theatre Company, York Theatre Royal, tonight until Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm, Saturday
ADRIAN Lukis played the vilified George Wickham in the BBC’s television adaptation of Pride And Prejudice 26 years ago this very month.
Time, he says, to set the record straight about Jane Austen’s most charmingly roguish character in his one-man play Being Mr Wickham, co-written with Catherine Curzon.
This is the chance to discover Wickham’s version of famous literary events. What really happened with Mr Darcy? What did he feel about Lizzie? What went on at Waterloo? Not to mention Byron. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Play of the week outside York: The Offing, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until October 30
IN a Britain still reeling from the Second World War, Robert Appleyard sets out on an adventure at 16: to walk from his home in Durham to Scarborough, where he hopes to find work, but he never arrives there.
Instead, up the coast at Robin Hood’s Bay, a chance encounter with the bohemian, eccentric Dulcie Piper leads to a lifelong, defining friendship. She introduces him to the joys of good food and wine, art and literature; he helps her lay to rest a ghost in Janice Okoh’s adaptation of Benjamin Myers’s novel for the SJT and Live Theatre, Newcastle. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.
Classic comeback: York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, Saturday, 7.30pm
YORK Guildhall Orchestra return to the concert stage this weekend after the pandemic hiatus with a programme of operatic favourites, conducted by Simon Wright.
The York musicians will be joined by Leeds Festival Chorus and two soloists, soprano Jenny Stafford, and tenor Oliver Johnston, to perform overtures, arias and choruses by Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Rossini, Mozart, Puccini and Verdi. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Medical drama of the week: Adam Kay, This Is Going To Hurt, Secret Diaries Of A Junior Doctor, Grand Opera House, Sunday, 8pm
ADAM Kay, medic turned comic, shares entries from his diaries as a junior doctor in his evening of horror stories from the NHS frontline, savvy stand-up, witty wordplay and spoof songs.
His award-winning show, This Going To Hurt, has drawn 200,000 people to sell-out tours, the Edinburgh Fringe and West End runs, and the book of the same name topped the best sellers list for more than a year and is soon to be a BBC drama. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.
Irish night of the week: Boyzlife, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm; doors, 6.30pm
PUT Irish boy band graduates Brian McFadden, from Westlife, and Keith Duffy, from Boyzone, together and they become Boyzlife, as heard on the July 2020 album Strings Attached, recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
On tour with a full band, but not the ‘Phil’, they choose songs from a joint back catalogue of 18 number one singles and nine chart-topping albums.
So many to squeeze in…or not: No Matter What, Flying Without Wings, World Of Our Own, Queen Of My Heart, Picture Of You, Uptown Girl, You Raise Me Up, Going Gets Tough, Swear It Again, Father And Son, Love Me For A Reason and My Love. Find out on Sunday. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk
Loudest gig of the week: Thumper, Fulford Arms, York, Tuesday, 8pm
THUMPER, the cult Dublin band with two thumping drummers, are back on the road after you know what, promoting a 2021 mix of their single Ad Nauseam: a cautionary tale of repetition, vanity and becoming too close to what you know will eat you.
From the Irish city of the equally visceral Fontaines DC and The Murder Capital, Thumper have emerged with their ragged guitars and “bratty, frenetic punk rock” (Q magazine).
Now their debut album is taking shape after the band were holed up in their home studio for months on end. The Adelphi, Hull, awaits on Wednesday.
At the fourth time of planning: Mary Coughlan, Pocklington Arts Centre, Tuesday, 8pm
GALWAY jazz and blues chanteuse Mary Coughlan had to move her Pocklington show three times in response to the stultifying pandemic.
“Ireland’s Billie Holliday” twice rearranged the gig during 2020, and did so again this year in a switch from April 23 to October 19.
At the heart of Mary’s concert, fourth time lucky, will still be Life Stories, her 15th album, released on the wonderfully named Hail Mary Records last September. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
Double act of the week ahead: Spiers & Boden, Pocklington Arts Centre, Wednesday, 7.30pm
AFTER years of speculation, much-loved English folk duo Spiers & Boden are back together, releasing the album Fallow Ground and bringing a live show to Pocklington this autumn with special guests.
First forming a duo in 2001, John Spiers, now 46, and Jon Boden, 44, became leading lights in big folk band Bellowhead, resting the duo in 2014, before Bellowhead headed into the sunset in 2016. Solo endeavours ensued but now Spiers & Boden return. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
Musical of the week: Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical Jr, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, October 20 to 24, 7.30pm; 2pm, 4.30pm, Saturday; 2pm, Sunday.
ONLY the last few tickets are still available for York Stage Musicals’ York premiere of the Broadway Junior version of Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s story.
Matilda has astonishing wit, intelligence, imagination…and special powers! Unloved by her cruel parents, she nevertheless impresses teacher Miss Honey, but mean headmistress Miss Trunchbull hates children and just loves thinking up new punishments for those who fail to abide by her rules. Hurry, hurry to the box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntheatre.co.uk.
Worth noting too:
PEOPLE We Love, the York Mediale exhibition, reopening at York Minster from Saturday. York Design Week, full of ideas, October 20 to 26, at yorkdesign week.com; Light Night Leeds 2021, with a Back To Nature theme for this art and lights festival tonight and tomorrow, at whatson.leeds.gov.uk; Live At Leeds gigs across 20 venues with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Sports Team, The Night Café, The Big Moon, Dream Wife, Poppy Adjuda, The Orielles and Thumper, at liveatleeds.com.
ADRIAN Lukis played George Wickham in the BBC’s television adaptation of Pride And Prejudice 26 years ago this very month.
Time, he says, to set the record straight about Jane Austen’s most charmingly roguish character in his one-man play Being Mr Wickham, co-written with Catherine Curzon.
This is the chance to discover the vilified Wickham’s version of some very famous literary events. Such as? What really happened with Darcy? What did he feel about Lizzie? What went on at Waterloo? Not to mention Byron.
Directed by Guy Unsworth and designed by Libby Watson, the Original Theatre Company’s 75-minute touring production visits York Theatre Royal from Thursday (14/10/2021) to Saturday.
From the company that brought Ben Brown’s political drama A Splinter Of Ice to the Theatre Royal in July comes Being Mr Wickham, wherein Lukis’s Mr Wickham is on the eve of his 60th birthday and wants to lift the sheets on exactly what happened 30 years on from where Jane Austen left him.
“I’m thrilled to be reunited with my old friend, George Wickham,” says Lukis, who starred with Colin Firth’s headline-grabbing Mr Darcy in Andrew Davies’s adaptation of Austen’s 1813 novel.
“Having spent years defending Wickham’s dubious reputation, I look forward to finally setting the record straight, with the assistance of the immensely talented Original Theatre Company.”
Rarely off the small screen, Lukis’s TV credits take in Channel 4’s Feel Good, the 2019 mini-series A Christmas Carol, Vera, Poldark, Bulletproof, Collateral, The Crown, Red Dwarf, Grantchester, Black Mirror, Blair Toast in Toast Of London, Downton Abbey, New Tricks and Death In Paradise.
He also stars in the new Netflix series Anatomy Of A Scandal, set to be streamed this year, and has had film roles in Judy, Dolittle, City Slacker and Bertie & Dickie.
Now he is touring Being Mr Wickham after theatre parts inThe Price(Theatre Royal Bath), The Seagull (Chichester Festival Theatre/ National Theatre) and Versailles (Donmar Warehouse).
Here, Adrian Lukis gives CharlesHutchPress the inside track on Being Mr Wickham.
What inspired you to revisit the character of Mr Wickham?
“When I turned 60 a few years ago, I started to wonder what it would be like for a man such as Wickham, who has been a rake and a ne’er-do-well, surviving on his looks and his wits, to have to deal with getting older.
“I started to look at it with Catherine Curzon, who is an expert on the historical side of things, and read everything about Wickham and Pride And Prejudice I could get hold of. I found myself discovering how much I enjoyed the process of researching and writing. Once I started, it just went like a storm.”
Given that the details of Wickham’s life are sketchy in the novel, how did you fill in the blanks?
“Firstly, I looked at the way he is described. For example, Darcy says he has led a dissolute life in London, so I thought, ‘well what really happened?’. I’ve also made up stories based on the historical facts and imagined an entire life for him above and beyond the book.
“At one stage, he enters a private club and gets into a punch-up, but it’s based on a real place called Watier’s Club in St James’s [London]. I also wanted to explore things such as what he really thinks of Elizabeth Bennet; what he really thinks of Lydia. These questions were really interesting to me.”
Austen depicts him as such a rogue, was it therefore important to fight his corner in the play?
“Absolutely. My premise was that people don’t tend to see themselves through a bad lens, and there are always two sides to a story. I could have written him like Flashman – an out-and-out bounder who just doesn’t care – but something I took very strongly from the book was that Wickham is plausibly a nice man.
“He is always described as being charming and amiable, rather than someone who’s constantly plotting and twirling his moustache. He admits he does some bad things, but turns it on the audience and asks, ‘have you led a blameless life?’.
“Also, he makes the point that life would be very dull without any rogues. I’d much rather spend an evening with him than with Darcy!”
How would Wickham be thought of in today’s society?
“It’s an interesting question. He would probably be labelled in contemporary terminology a bit of a ‘player’, and I think we all know men like that, but you have to view him in the context of his time. In Austen’s day, men who were not the first son had to set their cap at a wealthy heiress.
“That was a social pressure that we don’t really have today, so for a man with looks and charm, like Wickham, it made sense to try his luck with women, rather than going into the clergy.
“It would certainly be different today, although I think we are living through a very moral period, much more so than when I was growing up in the 1970s. So perhaps he would still be considered a scoundrel.”
What are your memories of playing Wickham first time round? Did you have any idea that the BBC series would become such a phenomenon?
“No idea at all; I don’t think any of us did. We knew it was a big production, and I thought the script was terrific, but we had no inkling of whether it would be a success. In that sense it was just another job.
“I remember writing to Colin Firth shortly after it came out, when he’d gone off to do some filming in South America, and saying words to the effect of ‘you have no idea what’s going on back home, this series has gone through the roof and you’re famous’.
“That being said, a few weeks later we went for a pint together in London, and I thought we would get absolutely mobbed – Darcy and Wickham out together -but nobody recognised us!”
Were you always drawn to acting and what about writing?
“My father was in the Royal Marines and I was initially brought up in Australia, where I didn’t have much chance to try it out, but when I came to England in the 1960s and was sent to public school, suddenly theatre was available to me and it was like being struck by a thunderbolt.
“I fell in love with it. My whole life soon became about being in school productions and when I was 17 I wrote my first play. At the time I thought I might be a playwright, so it’s nice I’m finally getting a chance to do it at 64!”
While on the subject of writers, what might Jane Austen have made of your reimagining of George Wickham?
“That depends on how you view her politics. She has been called all sorts of things, from a radical feminist to a staunch Methodist, but I think it’s safer to assume she was something of a small ‘c’ conservative.
“So, she probably would have disapproved of Wickham and seen him as being a rather weak and vapid young man, but I hope if she were to see this production, she would say, ‘good for you, you haven’t consigned him to the scrapheap and have found mitigating factors for his behaviour’.
Original Theatre Company presents Being Mr Wickham, York Theatre Royal, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Thursday’s performance will be followed by a 15 to 20-minute question-and-answer session. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
ONCE nights start to draw in, York Theatre Royal will fill its stage with spirits and shadows in The Haunted Season from September 9.
In the home of the restless ghost of the Grey Lady, world premieres by Emma Rice, Matthew Bourne and Tonderai Munyevu will be complemented by scary appearances by horror favourites Dracula, The Hound Of the Baskervilles and the Headless Horseman.
As trailered in CharlesHutchPress, Emma Rice’s Wise Children will complete a hattrick of Theatre Royal visits with Rice’s new adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights in a Theatre Royal co-production with the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic from November 9 to 20.
Lucy McCormick will play Cathy in this world premiere as Rice’s visual and musical style brings new life to this epic Yorkshire story of love, revenge and redemption.
“It is with an earthy spring in my step and epic twinkle in my eye that I announce our new plans for Wuthering Heights,” says Rice, who presented Angela Carter’s Wise Children at the Theare Royal in March 2019 and Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers that September.
“So many projects have fallen by the wayside during lockdown that there were times when I lost hope but there was no need. Wise Children are back; stronger, wiser and grateful for the chance to sing and dance again. The exceptional cast, crew, administrative and creative teams are ready to go and we are fizzing with ideas, dreams and anticipation.”
Earlier in the Haunted Season, from September 30 to October 2, will be the world premiere of celebrated choreographer Matthew Bourne’s The Midnight Bell, a dance exploration of “intoxicated tales from darkest Soho”, inspired by English novelist and Gaslight playwright Patrick Hamilton.
Delving into the underbelly of 1930s’ London life, this New Adventures show invites audiences to step inside The Midnight Bell, a tavern where one particular lonely hearts club gathers to play out lovelorn affairs of the heart: bitter comedies of longing, frustration, betrayal and redemption.
The Theatre Royal had to wait for 30 years for Londoner Sir Matthew Bourne, doyen of dandy dance, to bring a show to York for the first time on his Early Adventures tour in March 2017 after he introduced mid-scale touring. The Theatre Royal promptly booked his next tour, Matthew Bourne’s Deadly Serious, but that visit never materialised. Now, however, Bourne is back with his Soho tales.
The season will open with another world premiere, Zimbabwean writer-performer Tonderai Munyevu’s Mugabe, My Dad & Me from September 9 to 18. His high-voltage one-man show charts the rise and fall of one of the most controversial politicians of the 20th century, Robert Mugabe, through the personal story of Tonderai’s family and his relationship with his father as he considers familial love, identity and what it means to be “home”.
Playwright (and pantomime dame to boot) Philip Meeks has history at York Theatre Royal in the form of Twinkle, Little Star, starring Nottingham Playhouse panto legend Kenneth Alan Taylor in the Studio in 2008 and the 2017 world premiere of Murder, Margaret and Me, his comedy-thriller of imagined meetings between crime novelist and playwright Agatha Christie and actress Margaret Rutherford.
Now Meeks will return with his stage adaptation of The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving’s 1820 tale of the Headless Horseman, from October 5 to 9, when Wendi Peters, from Coronation Street, and Bill Ward, from Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Before We Die, will lead the cast and Filipe J Carvalho will provide the stage illusions.
Director Jake Smith says: “Sleepy Hollow is undoubtedly one of the greatest horror stories ever written and a tour de force to stage. The production has at its heart the power of nomadic storytelling and gathering round the campfire for a good ghost story. It is an important story for now as we look at conversations around the identity of nations, communities and humankind throughout the world.”
Two familiar figures from the world of horror will put in appearances at the Haunted Season, albeit maybe not in the expected manner. Kings of comedy Le Navet Bete will sink their teeth into Dracula: The Bloody Truth on September 24 and 25, mixing slapstick with carefully crafted comedy and a healthy dose of things going wrong as the action moves from dark and sinister Transylvania to the “awkwardly charming seaside town of Whitby”.
From October 19 to 23, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective story The Hound Of The Baskervilles will be given a humorous overhaul in a Lotte Wakeham production where farce collides with theatrical invention and comic performances.
Pride And Prejudice’s most roguish gentleman, George Wickham, will seek to set the record straight when Adrian Lukis performs in Being Mr Wickham from October 14 to 16. Lukis, who played Mr Wickham in the BBC TV adaptation, will reveal what really happened with Darcy, how he felt about Lizzie and, of course, what happened at Waterloo.
Two dance companies will return to the Theatre Royal stage: Ballet Black on October 26 and Phoenix Dance Theatre on November 23 and 24.
Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black Double Bill will feature Then And Now, wherein Will Tuckett blends classical ballet, poetry and music to explore ideas of home and belonging, and fellow Olivier Award-winning choreographer Mthuthuzeli November’s contemplation of the purpose of life in The Waiting Game.
Leeds company Phoenix Dance Theatre will be celebrating 40 Years Of Phoenix with a birthday programme of work by international and award-winning choreographers, including former artistic directors and collaborators.
Lorne Campbell’s new theatrical version of The Ballad Of Johnny Longstaff will be performed by BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-winning trio The Young’uns – Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes – from October 28 to 30.
This protest-song celebration of northern working-class activism features songs from the original album, alongside new material and animation, in the true story of a young anti-fascist’s journey from poverty and unemployment in Stockton-on-Tees through the hunger marches of the 1930s, the mass trespass movement and the Battle of Cable Street, to fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War.
On October 11 and 12, English Touring Opera will return to the Theatre Royal with Handel’s Amadigi, based on a chivalric romance about three young people imprisoned by a sorceress.
From November 2 to 6, York Opera will present The Magic Flute, Mozart’s magical and last great opera, sung in English with an orchestra.
For younger audiences, Rod Campbell’s lift-the-flap book will leap off the page in Dear Zoo Live!, a show packed full of puppetry, songs and all the animals from the zoo, on September 28 and 29.
After The Love Season and upcoming Summer Of Love, The Haunted Season will be the third of York Theatre Royal’s mini-seasons since reopening on May 17. Tickets are on sale on 01904 623568 and at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.