Presented by Independent Theatre
Reviewed 15th November 2019
First performed in London in 1902 almost a decade after it was first written, George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession is back in theatre, this time presented by South Australia’s very own Independent Theatre. The delay in the 19th century was a result of government censorship on the subject matter, which is that of brothels and prostitution; in fact it was not licensed for the public until 1925. Is this what the play is really all about?
On the surface, the play is the story of how Cambridge educated Vivie Warren discovers the source of her mother’s wealth and of how repulsed she is by the fact that her mother’s financial independence wasn’t from the noblest of professions. Although Vivie is clearly booksmart, having graduated with Honours from Cambridge and soon to be starting work as an actuary, Vivie is not quite as wordly as her mother.
Although at first it takes quite some time for Vivie to understand why her mother chose the path to wealth that she did – which was working her way up from being a prostitute to being a madam – does this recognition and acceptance last?
Long time stage performer Eloise Quinn-Valentine is perfect as Vivie with her lively facial expressions and demeanour, and John Rosen as the artistic, innocent Mr Praed also noteable. The remaining cast – Vivie’s admirer Frank Gardner by Patrick Marlin, John Oster as Sir George Crofts, co-designer of the set David Roach as Reverend Samuel Garner and Pam O’Grady as Mrs Kitty Warren were all finely attired and very enjoyable to watch*.
As with many of Shaw’s plays, his political, social and spiritual ideologies are undeniable as the underlying matters in this play are financial independence and equality for women, undervalued women, educated women and, society’s judgement. The themes raised are still ongoing today, over a century later.
The play demonstrates this relevance over a course of hilariously witty arguments characteristic of Shaw’s plays. Mrs Warren’s Profession is not just about Mrs Kitty Warren rising from nothing to being presently, a businesswoman overseeing multiple brothels.
“I declare that the real secret of the cynicism and inhumanity of which shallower critics accuse me is the unexpectedness with which my characters behave like human beings, instead of conforming to the romantic logic of the stage” (George Bernard Shaw). If you know of Shaw’s work you will enjoy this play, if not, this quote says it all.
Reviewed by Rebecca Wu
*It was a bit distracting having the play read with book in hand by Pam however she still does a fine job of expressing the emotions and Independent Theatre has acknowledged in their programme guide that they are indebted to her for filling in for a role at last minute’s notice, with no preparation.
Venue: Goodwood Theatre; 166a Goodwood Road, Goodwood
Season: 15th November 2019 – 23rd November 2019
Duration: 2 hours 15 minutes