Bull’s head honcho

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Ian Soutar talks to Adrian Lukis, a familiar face from television, who is about to open in a new play at the Crucible Studio

IT was back in 1995 that Adrian Lukis played the caddish George Wickham in TV’s Pride and Prejudice but he continues to be associated with the role.

“I don’t mind because it was a good piece of work from everybody involved,” he says of the BBC costume drama starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth which is regarded as the definitive production of the Jane Austen novel .

“I always say you never know how things are going to turn out and I don’t think any of us knew that it was going to be a big hit.

“I’ve just been on holiday in Egypt with my partner and people recognized me but I think that’s as much from Peak Practice (on which he spent two years playing Dr David Shearer),”

continues the actor who has appeared regularly on TV ever since in series such as Foyles War, Midsomer Murders, Spooks and Judge John Deed.

Now he is in Sheffield rehearsing Bull, a play by Mike Bartlett set in the sharp end of office politics, which is premiering at the Crucible Studio.

Lukis’s character, Carter, is the manager of a group of young corporate types.

“I have reached the age where I am now the boss,” he chuckles. “It’s a play about three young office workers in an office. We’re not sure what they do, it’s something to do with sales, it’s never specified. One of them is being dumped from the workforce and I am going round to each of them and then I come in at the end and reveal who I am going to fire.

“Mike Bartlett has rather brilliantly caught the tone of that environment and what is essentially bullying. Two of the characters turn on the third and destroy and dismantle him. In some ways it’s quite a horrible play. I’m only in it for a bit but I thought it was something I wanted to be part of.”

An experienced classical actor Lukis has nevertheless appeared in new writing before such Misha’s Party by as Hanif Kureishi at the RSC and Julian Barnes’s Arthur and George for Birmingham Rep.

“It’s good fun doing a new piece, you don’t have any predecessors to worry about or the ghost of Olivier,” he says. “The part is your own to do the best you can with, and I like that.

“When I was a young actor I appeared in Arms and the Man at the Royal Exchange and the first day of rehearsals one of the older actors said to me, you do realise your part was Olivier’s greatest comic role. I never recovered from having his shadow over me”.

Lukis remembers previously coming to Sheffield in Derek Jarman’s Macbeth at the Lyceum but his only appearance at the Crucible was his theatrical debut in Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes which came on tour from the Nottingham Playhouse in the mid-1980s.

The actor reflects on the type of roles he has played down the years which have not all been handsome charmers and rogues.

“When I started out I acted and wrote a lot of comedy but probably because of the way I spoke I tended to get cast as earnest young men,” he says. “But I’ve done a whole lot more comedy recently.“

This includes Toast, Outnumbered (as the unwitting parent of a drug dealer at Jake’s school) and Fresh Meat.

“I got cast as Jack Whitehall’s father in Fresh Meat,” he reports. “His real dad was once my agent and he and Jack came to see me in The Handyman last year.”

He says he was never tempted to put anything of Michael Whitehall into his performance and determined to play the straight man to Jack Whitehall.

“When I got the part I said to the producer that it was good to get a long run in something and she looked slightly evasive. When I read the script I found the character died of a massive heart attack at the end of the first episode.”

There seems to be a theme here when he describes his part in an episode of Poirot he filmed the other day.

He plays a General Ravenscroft who is seen right at the start walking with his wife along the Downs somewhere near Beachy Head. The camera pans away and there is the sound of a shot and when it pans back the couple are lying dead with a gun lying beside them.

The mystery for Poirot to unravel is whether the general shot his wife and then shot himself or vice versa or if someone unseen shot the seemingly happy couple.

The narrative goes back into their past. “Yes there are some flashbacks, otherwise it would have been a very short part,” agrees the actor who didn’t even get to have a day out on the South Downs. “It was all done at Shepperton with green screen so all the walking along the clifftop was done in the studio.”

Bull is at the Crucible Studio from February 6-23.