What happens to a rake when he can’t rake anymore? Here is the answer…

Setting the record straight: Adrian Lukis as George Wickham 30 years after Pride And Prejudice in Being Mr Wickham

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.

Wouldn’t you rather spend a night out with Mr Wickham than Mr Darcy, speculated Adrian Lukis in his post-show question-and-answer session

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.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

George Wickham, the survivor, in Adrian Lukis’s characterisation in Being Mr Wickham

More Things To Do in and around York as records are set straight and dark nights lit up. List No. 53, courtesy of The Press, York

Setting the record straight: Adrian Lukis’s roguish George Wickham in Being Mr Wickham at York Theatre Royal

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.

Cate Hamer in rehearsal for the SJT and Live Theatre, Newcastle co-production of The Offing. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

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.  

Simon Wright: Conducting York Guildhall Orchestra at York Barbican

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.

Adam Kay: Medic, author and comedian, on visiting hours at Grand Opera House, York, on Sunday

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.

Boyzlife: Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden unite in Boyzone and Westlife songs at York Barbican

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

Thumper: Dublin band play Ad Nauseam and much more at Fulford Arms, York, on Tuesday

 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

Mary Coughlan: Life Stories in song at Pocklington Arts Centre

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.

Spiers & Boden: Resurrected folk duo head to Pocklington on Wednesday

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.

Matilda takes on Miss Trunchbull in Matilda The Musical Jr

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.

People We Love: Curtailed by the second Covid lockdown, the York Mediale exhibition has a second life at York Minster from this weekend

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.

Oh, the scandal! Adrian Lukis plays Pride And Prejudice’s Mr Wickham again, 30 years on from Jane Austen’s novel

Adrian Lukis: Being Mr Wickham again, 30 years on from Jane Austen’s novel

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.

“I’ve made up stories based on the historical facts and imagined an entire life for Wickham above and beyond the book,” says Adrian Lukis

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.”

” 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,” says Adrian Lukis, actor and now writer too

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.

“We are living through a very moral period, much more so than when I was growing up in the 1970s,” says Adrian Lukis. “So perhaps Wickham would still be considered a scoundrel”

“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