Saturday, July 13

Being Mr Wickham – Jermyn Street Theatre

What makes a seductive storyteller? Is it the charm that derives from easy confidence or perhaps the anxious titillation induced by performed vulnerability?

Being Mr Wickham, one ought to learn one way or another. A character as easy to hate on second reading of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as he is tempting to root for in one’s first exposure to the novel, if any version of George Wickham knows one thing, it’s how to arouse a reaction in an audience. This play, itself by Adrian Lukis, who played Wickham in the BBC’s iconic Pride and Prejudice at 38 and now reprises the role in a script of his own genius at 67, works hard to flesh out the irredeemable rake and cast him in new light.

Neither dastardly villain nor tragic hero, Lukis’ vision of Wickham on the night of his 60th birthday is an eminently approachable figure. Flawed indeed, but much more relatable than despicable, this memoir style address is remarkably easy listening. Directed gracefully by Guy Unsworth and placed in a cosy, convincingly habitable set by designer, Libby Watson, this play is nonetheless cramped by the constraints of its source material.

Unlike many others of the throng of Pride and Prejudice inspired new works in literature, film, or web series, this play doesn’t really fuss much with the novels plot and neither does it really bother with inventing one of its own. Although it amicably leads audiences down the dark and winding path that is Wickham’s imagined past it has very little adaptive ambition and doesn’t take viewers anywhere particularly exciting.

Lukis successfully recontextualises the character of George Wickham but in the play’s mere hour runtime accomplishes little else. The show sets itself up for direct comparison with one of the greatest novels ever written, and even worse, one of the most popular miniseries ever binge-watched by millions, and inevitably comes up short.

Playing until 22nd June, Being Mr Wickham | Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 10th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.