Being Mr Wickham sees Adrian Lukis reprise his character of George Wickham, which he famously played in the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice back in 1995. Wickham, now 60 years old, sits in his home and reflects on his life, recounting his childhood trauma (including the beginnings of his fraught relationship with Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy), his hedonistic London years prior to his appearance in the novel, as well as his own take on the events of Jane Austen's story and what happened after. Bringing the audience along on this exploration of life's meaning, he encourages us to question whether he really is the villain we so readily assume. 

There is little to be said other than complete praise for all that encompasses this production. It is a marvel that Lukis has penned this text himself, which glides off the page with stunning visuals, evoking a viscerally vibrant Regency London (among other equally palpable locations), and balancing narrative and poetry perfectly. The exposition never feels forced, and though we are tickled to hear of the places and characters with which we are so familiar, these insertions are never too cheesy. Everything in this writing is pitched exactly where it needs to be. Though it starts to drag a little towards the end, overall we are simply desperate for Wickham to keep talking and telling us more!

Libby Watson has brilliantly transformed the minimal playing space into a beautifully ornate room in the Wickhams' home, complete with sash window, tarnished mirrors, and a stunning decanter among other beautiful touches. A secret theatrical surprise lies in wait in the walls of the set, which is lovely though doesn't feel entirely necessary given the more grounded tone of the rest of the piece. Max Pappenheim evokes nostalgia with his gentle insertions of sound throughout, and Johanna Town's lighting is subtle but beautifully warm. 

Where the warmth really comes from, however, is Lukis' performance. One might be hesitant to see someone reprise a role of a charming playboy nearly 30 years later, expecting to see someone attempting to demonstrate they still possess plenty of charisma, but what Lukis offers is something so much more. It cannot be denied that the man certainly oozes charisma, immediately drawing the audience into his world, charming us with his cheeky pauses and roguish grin; but none of this feels at all out of place for the character he has aged up so perfectly.  His close connection to the text is evident; he deftly dances around the prose as if it were song, while still managing to present the entire work as genuinely conversational and improvised - this is a level of talent so rarely seen and is gratefully enjoyed by a captive audience. We want only for a little more build-up to an emotional twist near the end of the play, but the impact is still felt regardless.

Guy Unsworth must be lauded, too, for direction that is so subtle it could easily be thought missing, but this is entirely the point - he has created sincerity, possibly the most difficult of challenges in theatre, in the most genuine way.

Not to be missed for any Austen fan, Being Mr Wickham runs at Jermyn Street Theatre until 22nd June.

Review: Penny Lane     Photo: James Findlay