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Guest Blog: Adrian Lukis In Defence of Jane Austen's Wickham

The Olivier Nominee Talks About Revisiting a TV Triumph, This Time Onstage

Guest Blog: Adrian Lukis In Defence of Jane Austen's Wickham

Can it really be more than a quarter-century since the BBC's Pride and Prejudice transfixed viewers, accelerating the shooting stars of Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth as Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, not to mention Adrian Lukis, in the choice supporting role of the caddish George Wickham? Since then, Lukis has appeared frequently onstage and screen, winning a 2019 Olivier nod for his performance in the West End revival of The Price, and is returning to the stage in a solo play self-penned with author Catherine Curzon (pictured below) that argues the case for Jane Austen's celebrated rogue three decades on. The actor here sets out his defence of the character.

When I turned 60, I felt old, overweight and obsolete. I know that "obsolete" is a touch dramatic, but if an actor can't be dramatic, then the world really is in a shambles.

My brain, which I had liked to think of as a prize athlete, was suddenly pulling a sicky and felt laid up in the changing room. My body was heading south, with creaky knees and a tum that wouldn't look too clever by the swimming pool. My memory had become as vague and baffled as my dear old grandmother, who came to find the simplest TV drama beyond comprehension, harrumphing, "But I thought HE was the baddy" as James Bond came striding into view.

Guest Blog: Adrian Lukis In Defence of Jane Austen's Wickham
Co-author Catherine Curzon

What must it be like for a man such as George Wickham to arrive at the same bleak destination? What happens when the ageing roué, with his patter and easy smile, finds that all his cards have been played, that he can no longer...well, pull: the charmer now more Pantalone than pants-dropper?

Would Wickham rage against the dying of the light, or embrace the twilight years with zen-like calm?

"I loathe old age. Time was I used to happy to gaze into every looking glass and see myself reflected. Now I recoil from them with a black and despairing heart, from the ruined face of that young man".

Right.

And Wickham, we are always being told, is a villain. Those twin pillars for the prosecution, Jane Austen and Fitzwilliam Darcy have done a pretty thorough hatchet job on the poor fellow! Here's a man, we are told, without conscience, lying to Elizabeth, taking money from Darcy, eloping with the gullible and flighty Lydia.

A liar and a rogue.

Or so we are told...

But, what if George Wickham could somehow be resurrected? Could sit down with us, look us in the eye and tell us what really happened? What would he say in his defence?

Would he shrug his shoulders and meekly plead guilty to all charges? Which would have made for a very dull evening.

We didn't think so. This man is a survivo, and besides, how much more fun to have Wickham in the ring, gloves on, charming the crowd, while preparing to slug it out over 15 rounds...

And so over the course of the evening, as drinks are poured and memories shared, we hear Wickham's story: the brothels and gaming houses; the drinking and seductions; the scandalous treatment at the hands of Darcy, a man consumed with envy and resentment; the callous disinheritance from a promised life in the church; the brutal school years of flogging and revolution and the courage he finds, marching towards the cannons at Waterloo:

"You think you know my story, don't you? Why wouldn't you? It's all down there in black and white. The noble Darcy hanging in pride of place, George Wickham in the rogues' gallery.

Of course, I have behaved badly. One might even say, once or twice, disgracefully. I'm flawed.

Aren't you?

Aren't we all?"

Aren't we all?

Being Mr Wickham streams for three performances 30 April - 1 May

Adrian Lukis as Wickham, photo c. Michael Wharley


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