• Deborah Yaffe

Mr. Wickham, live

The BBC’s iconic 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is known among Janeites by various shorthands:

* There’s “the wet-shirt P&P,” for the memorable scene involving Mr. Darcy, a cool pond on a hot day, and a dampened white garment that – ahem! – clings;

* There's "the Andrew Davies P&P," for the ubiquitous screenwriter famous for adding sex to the supposedly sexless Jane Austen;

* There’s “the Colin Firth P&P,” for the talented British actor whose star turn as a devastatingly attractive, wet-shirt-wearing Mr. Darcy will undoubtedly get a mention in the first paragraph of his obituary;

* And there’s “the Firth-Ehle P&P,” for those of us who think Jennifer Ehle’s star turn as a delightfully witty Elizabeth Bennet deserves just as much attention as any item of male clothing.


But I have never heard this particular adaptation referred to as “the Adrian Lukis P&P.”


That’s not to disparage Lukis’ performance as slimy George Wickham, the callous seducer who comes close to ruining the Bennet girls’ life chances. Lukis is fine in the role, if not handsome enough to tempt me, but the part has its limits: Inevitably, any half-competent Mr. Darcy is going to eclipse even the best Mr. Wickham.


So I find it a bit bemusing that during the last weekend of this month, Lukis will be starring in a one-man show riffing on what I surmise must still be, even twenty-six years later, his most famous role. Being Mr. Wickham, co-written by Lukis and novelist/ historian Catherine Curzon, will be livestreamed three times on April 30 and May 1, with a live Q&A following each ninety-minute performance.


The basic ticket costs £20 (about $28), with extra perks available for those who pay £40 ($55) or £100 ($138). (Although you can apparently buy a basic ticket at any time, the extras are only available if you order by the end of today.) The performances -- two evenings and one matinee -- are occurring on British time and won’t be recorded, so Americans may have to rearrange their weekend schedules to attend.


The show features a sixtyish Wickham “ready to set the record straight” on everything from his relationship with Mr. Darcy to his experiences at the Battle of Waterloo, which took place two years after Pride and Prejudice was published. In other words, it’s theatrical fanfic -- not that there’s anything wrong with that.


It seems unlikely that the Lukis-Curzon team will be able to match Jane Austen’s wit – who can? -- but with any luck, Being Mr. Wickham will provide a diverting interlude for those of us who never tire of the Jennifer Ehle P&P.

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