[THEATRE ~ AUS]
Goodwood Theatre, Sat 16 Nov.
George Bernard Shaw’s influence on English language theatre is considered by some to be second only to Shakespeare. Known primarily as a playwright, Shaw was also a critic and political activist. Mrs Warren’s Profession is one of his earlier works. Written in 1894 the play focuses largely on the issue of prostitution.
Much of the play is performed outdoors in gardens of the English countryside to a soundtrack of chirping birds. An old artist friend of Mrs Warren, Mr Praed, finds himself unexpectedly alone with her daughter Vivie (Eloise Quinn-Valentine) – an independent young woman who has recently completed her studies at Cambridge. Praed finds himself caught in a conversation where Vivie is very free in expressing opinions about her mother – not at all the ‘done thing’ in polite society of the time – and announcing that she is not the least bit interested in romance or things sentimental. John Rosen as Praed strikes just the right balance between being appalled and intrigued by this strangely independent young woman.
Neither, at this stage, has any idea of the true nature of Mr Warrens’ profession, nor does her sweet and proper neighbour, the Reverend Samuel Gardner – delightfully played as a gentle, caring soul by David Roach. The Reverend’s son Frank (Patrick Marlin) is a bit of a cad who has no money and spends his time currying favour with any woman who has the means to support him and that includes both Mrs Warren and her daughter.
Unfortunately, the person originally cast as Mrs Warren has pulled out of this production at short notice. The role was read by Pam O’Grady who did a remarkable job of it; her role is central. There are many long passages typical of Shaw’s writing, and in one of these monologues she determines that it is time to tell her daughter the truth about her ‘profession’. Not surprisingly this causes a profound change in their relationship.
Ms Warren’s Profession is charming and brutal; witty and quite cold. A very even cast all deliver strong performances that envelop the audience in the manners and customs of a bygone era, but where opinions about the roles of men and women and what is acceptable behaviour seem strangely similar to the present day.
Mrs Warren’s Profession continues at Goodwood Theatre, at various times, until Sat 23 Nov.
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