Review: Being Mr Wickham is fan fiction of the very best sort on Coventry stage

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Being Mr Wickham at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Adrian Lukis in Being Mr Wickham
Adrian Lukis in Being Mr Wickham

Being someone is not as straightforward as it might seem. Especially when you are a character in one of the best-known novels of all time, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

In Being Mr Wickham, Adrian Lukis’s charming re-interpretation of the character of dastardly George Wickham we see another side of the man. The pleasure-loving, dissolute and dishonourable villain has a softer side, one that mitigates his wicked ways. In a monologue lasting just over an hour we hear a plea for the defence that would win over the sternest judge.

Lukis’s tale draws on a good deal of contextual material. All his life Wickham was aware that he did not come from the best of society. He was well aware, too, of the casual cruelty that the upper classes could inflict upon those they considered inferior. He was to have none of it. By seeking pleasure wherever he could find it he would build his own sort of resistance to brutality.

And resist he did. Women and gambling were his forte, the ballroom and the salon his battlefield. Men like Darcy and Lord Byron were his enemies. Wickham won a few battles and lost a few more. Somehow, much to his surprise, he reached the age of sixty, which is the point from which he tells his tale, looking back on a life that was full of action and intrigue. He rises above it all with humour and seemingly genuine modesty.

Being Mr Wickham is fan fiction of the very best sort. Touching, reverential where it is due, but unafraid to tell the truth, to set the record straight. One only wishes one had known Mr Wickham in real life.

* Being Mr Wickham is playing at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry till October 2, then on tour for a month. Visit belgrade.co.uk or call 024 7655 3055 to book.