Being Mr Wickham - an at-home theatre experience!

Co-writer Catherine Curzon tells us about Austen-inspired play Being Mr Wickham, streaming live to your home April 30 and May 1 2021. More details below.

Adrian Lukis as Mr Wickham, credit Michael Wharley 

In the world of literature, there are some characters who refuse to go quietly. They spring from the pages that attempt to contain them, sometimes heroic, sometimes villainous and sometimes - for better or worse - just plain old entertaining. In the case of George Wickham, it might be said that two out of three isn’t bad. Though he’s done his fair share of dastardly deeds and certainly has his entertaining moments, Mr Wickham is nobody’s hero but his own. One can’t help but feel that he would rather approve of that. 

George Wickham, of course, is the duplicitous rogue who has left readers seething for over two centuries since the publication of Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice in 1813. Over the years he has won new audiences thanks to film and television adaptations of the book and now Mr Wickham is back and he’s ready to set the record straight. By now a sprightly 60 years old, whether the years have softened his ambition of dampened his charm remains to be seen.   

The story of Mr Wickham’s journey to the stage began several years ago, when I was invited to write an article in the form of a letter from an Austen character of my choosing. I immediately knew that the character had to be Wickham. After all, whilst we know the official side of the story, but I’ve always been intrigued by how literature’s most famous antagonists might have viewed their narratives differently. The article went down well and led to several more, and it became apparent that I was able to tap into my inner Wickham with rather worrying ease. Whilst chatting with my husband one day I joked that if I was an actor and, crucially, a man, I’d write myself a Wickham monologue. When I mentioned this to Adrian Lukis one day, it turned out he’d been thinking along similar lines… the only thing to do was combine and go to work. I went away and wrote the first draft of Being Mr Wickham whilst sitting beside a sunny stream outside an eighteenth century coaching inn, which certainly helped get into character. After that, it’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of fun too. By the time the play premiered in Bath in 2019, Wickham was more than ready to be unleashed. 

Adrian Lukis as Mr Wickham, credit Michael Wharley  

Though I’m not used to writing for characters that aren’t of my own creation, Austen’s characterisation is so acute that it’s a gift to an author. Wickham’s voice is right there on the page and when he speaks, one can immediately see and hear him. Plausibility is the greatest weapon in his arsenal, coupled with that legendary charm can be deployed with devastating impact whenever he needs it. In adapting Austen’s character for our own work, Adrian and I were acutely aware of the responsibility that we had taken on and no matter where we took the narrative, it was important to us that we let Wickham tell us his story. Luckily, he was more than happy to do so. 

The events at Pemberley were just a small part of the rich and varied life of George Wickham, and we have relished the opportunity to see where fate took Wickham both before and after Austen’s narrative. I’m a historian of the eighteenth century, so the opportunity to place Wickham on the battlefield at Waterloo or in a theatre with Lord Byron was irresistible. Adrian and I are both enormous fans of Austen’s work, and to be able to tell the story of one of her most characters has been an absolute privilege.  

Audiences worldwide will get the opportunity to discover exactly how the years have treated Mr Wickham when Being Mr Wickham, starring Adrian Lukis, is streamed live from the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Presented by the original Theatre Company, the play invites audiences to join Mr Wickham at home and listen to his side of a very famous story. It’s too scandalous an invitation to miss! 

Being Mr Wickham starring Adrian Lukis as Mr Wickham, and co-written by Adrian and Catherine is live streamed at 7:30pm on Friday 30 April & Saturday 1 May 3pm and 7:30pm. The show is approx. 60 minutes plus a 25 minute Q&A. Book your tickets now on - originaltheatreonline.com  or theatreroyal.org  

If you're looking to pack your diary full of Austen, we're reopening next month! Get your entry tickets for the Jane Austen Centre here.

 

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