MRS WARREN’S PROFESSION
by George Bernard Shaw
Theatre by the Lake In rep to 26 October 2001
Runs 2 hours 25 minutes. One interval.
TICKETS 017687 74411
Review Timothy Ramsden 8 August
Some punches connect in revival of hard-hitting Shaw.
A pastoral peace pervades Shaw’s opening scene and it’s well caught in Martin Johns’ idyllic backcloth. But Shaw’s characters soon bring their moral detritus into this Eden of late Victorian Surrey.
What’s a well brought-up Victorian girl to do when she finds her good upbringing was paid for from the proceeds of a string of Euro-brothels run by her mother and the old knight who is now seeking her hand?
At first young Vivie Warren (Maria Gough) uses a New Woman’s mental agility to deal with mother and her friends. But as they blight her future with the ghosts of their past Vivie’s only weapon is escape into a business partnership with her ‘fellow’ new woman Honoria Fraser. For this last act Johns provides a contrasting cityscape, railway arches, smokestacks and grubby clouds that show the reality behind the Haslemere idyll.
This being Shaw, the old devils have some strong arguments and point the finger at society. Human trafficking still thrives on the same economic imperatives, more viciously than anything Shaw describes. So Ian Forrest’s revival is timely, though it would have benefited from several cast members pointing Shaw’s lines more clearly.
There are short cuts to characterisation too; the naÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¯ve know-all Praed’s aestheticism shouts at us through his costume, though John Webb is moving when Praed finally reaches his fall and genuine feeling shows through aesthetic presumption.
Kitty Warren (Sara Coward) announces her East End origins in every vowel, contrasting the practised West End vice of Peter Yapp’s Sir George Crofts. The gap between mother and daughter is caught in Kitty’s frilly, colourful dress and Vivie’s severe check. They’ve less difference in manner; Vivie’s soon as distraught as her mother. Families can do that to people, but the contrast between the old and New woman’s blurred as a result.
Frank Gardner: Paul Basson
The Rev. Samuel Gardner: David Bowen
Mrs Kitty Warren: Sara Coward
Vivie Warren: Maria Gough
Praed: John Webb
Sir George Crofts: Peter Yapp
Director: Ian Forrest
Designer: Martin Johns
Lighting: Nick Beadle
Sound: Paul Bunn