When Pride and Prejudice is mentioned, many of us think back to the 1995 BBC version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Now Adrian Lukis who played Mr. Wickham in that infamous adaptation returns to the role in this live streamed performance at the Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmonds. In this one man play, Wickham is at home on the eve of his sixtieth birthday retelling what has happened in his life since his run in with Elizabeth Bennett and her family decades ago. Cleverly, this one hander is effectively produced for an online audience so that those watching can view the theatre at various moments in the show. As the theatres have been closed for so long, seeing the theatre lit up and the stage full was an exciting and heart-warming moment, even before the production had begun. Prior to the performance, the audience is gifted with a short film about how the company produced the play, with interviews from both the set designer and director. This was a lovely addition to the performance and was a great insight into what we were about to witness.
The set was an insight into Wickham’s life as we see him in his home, sat at his desk and looking out of the window whilst remarking on those wandering the streets below. Wickham talks directly to us the audience, and we feel like his confidant and friend hearing about all his dealings from when we last saw him marrying Lydia Bennett. The piece cleverly mixes solemn stories mixed with laughter and it is this ingenious mix of emotions within the writing that enables the audience to clearly imagine Wickham undertaking all of the events he recounts.
A major theme of the play is aging and there are poignant moments as we see Wickham reflecting on how quickly his life has flashed before him, and he reflects on his younger self. One particularly poignant moment which showcases the excellent writing from both Lukis and Curzon, is when Wickham discusses the death of his friend Denny whilst they were at war. The description of this moment is detailed and Lukis delivers this perfectly, making us feel sorry for what Wickham had to witness.
As with Austen’s original character of Wickham, we equally love and hate him, and this piece writes him in just the same way adding depth and complexity to a character that can sometimes be viewed as a caricature. Lukis cleverly portrays Wickham in this way, making the audience feel sorry for him, even though we know he is truly the rascal of the piece. Another added bonus was the post- performance live Q & A with Lukis in which he discussed inspiration for the piece, which was in part him becoming older and pondering how Wickham would feel in this situation. Overall, a wonderful evening that is worth the watch and will make you want to revisit the original text again which opens up questions about what the other characters are up to.
Reviewer: Beth Easton
Reviewed: 30th April 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★