MRS WARREN’S PROFESSION
by George Bernard Shaw.
Comedy Theatre Panton Street To 19 June 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7622 (£3 transaction fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 March.
From sex to accountancy in one generation: with wit along the way.
As in Widowers’ Houses, another Shavian ‘Play Unpleasant’, Mrs Warren’s Profession has one of its reprobates point out to a self-satisfied character that they’re implicated in the moral filth they’ve just been decrying. Here, Cambridge Maths graduate and New Woman Vivie Warren is informed by Sir George Crofts that her education and clothes have been bought out of her mother’s long-term involvement with women’s oldest profession.
Vivie holds-out against both Crofts’ attempts to marry her and a mother’s fondness that smothers her daughter with a sizeable allowance, fleeing to London to earn her living by accountancy. She’s merely bored by the artistic world Mrs Warren wants her to enjoy and which is all-in-all to her mother’s friend, the aesthetic innocent Praed.
Mrs Warren is very much the Old Woman (as well as, naturally, an older one). Dressing elegantly, she flirts with young Frank, son of the local clergyman. Though he mocks his dull-witted dad and pursues Vivie, Frank’s ultimately conventional mind is apparent in his baby-talk to her.
In Michael Rudman’s fresh-thought revival, Max Bennett’s Frank is the most remarkable characterisation, his limitations of intelligence and perspective more than balanced by readiness in organising people. Repeatedly orchestrating and managing events with energy and invention, Frank also has the play’s most revolutionary line, overthrowing traditional authority by a ranking according to intelligence.
Eric Carte displays his vicarious father’s stupidity with a saving restraint, while Mark Tandy tactfully ensures the somewhat peripheral Praed is noticeable in his place. David Yelland’s Crofts is a fine amalgam of aging roué with silkily ruthless calculating-machine.
Felicity Kendal’s Mrs Warren works on a polarity between soft feminine manner and vocal grit with determined expression when defensive, extending to a sense of genuine distress in the final scene ,where the action – like the setting – is out of her hands. Though Lucy Briggs-Owen’s mathematically precise Vivie is surprisingly more florid of gesture at the opening than the aesthetic Praed, her 21st-century vocal cadences and facial reactions of disbelief and rejection suit Vivie’s modern Shavian attitudes, while she joins the overall spirit of clarity and restraint in Rudman’s revival
Mrs Warren: Felicity Kendal.
Vivie: Lucy Briggs-Owen.
Crofts: David Yelland.
Reverend Samuel Gardner: Eric Carte.
Praed: Mark Tandy.
Frank: Max Bennett.
Director: Michael Rudman.
Designer: Paul Farnsworth.
Lighting: David Howe.
Sound: Jason Barnes.
Music consultant: Eric Carte.
Assistant director: Joao de Sousa.