MRS WARREN’S PROFESSION
by Bernard Shaw
Tour to 21 July 2003
Runs 2hr 30min One interval
Review: Hazel Brown 27 May at Lighthouse, Poole
Revival of recent West End production lacks charisma.This touring version of Peter Hall’s recent West End hit has been re-directed by James Robert Carson and, no doubt to pull in the provincial audiences, a big name’ cast in the central role. Though Twiggy Lawson looks magnificent and sounds authentic, she lacks the charisma and acting skills to drive this play forward.
Lacking this central pivot, the other actors are left floundering in order to make their mark and only come to life when on stage without Mrs Warren. Thus the vital scene, when Vivie learns where the money for her lifestyle and education comes from, falls below the high watermark of tension that Shaw must have intended. Hannah Yelland is forthright and strong as the daughter who decides to make her own way in the world working as a lawyer, ultimately brutally rejecting her mother and also propositions from three of the men.
Ryan Kiggell is jolly and amusing as Vivie’s young suitor, the cynically worthless Frank. Benedick Blythe is charming and effete as the art lover, Praed, who fails to convince her of the beguiling charms of travelling Europe. And Jeremy Clyde is smooth and charmingly menacing as Mrs Warren’s lover and business partner, Sir George, whose cynical proposal of marriage is given the short shrift it deserves.
Shaw has a fine time poking fun at the English establishment and its hypocrisies, particularly in the character of the Rector with no faith and high pretensions, captured in a fine performance by Mike Burnside.
Shaw’s intention was to show that society at the turn of the last century forced women into prostitution as it paid working women so little and offered women of resource no opportunities. He asserts that the profession Mrs Warren follows is like any other capitalist international business enriching coffers – from the aristocracy to the church.
This play makes many telling points, but it would be improved by an eponymous performance that did not mistake stridency for emotion and squaring of the shoulders as the sole gesture of defiance. The sets make imaginative use of photographs to expand the perspective beyond the confines of the stage, but scene changes take so long the audience becomes restive.
Praed: Benedick Blythe
Vivie Warren: Hannah Yelland
Mrs Warren: Twiggy Lawson
Sir George Crofts: Jeremy Clyde
Frank Gardner: Ryan Kiggell
Rev. Samuel Gardner: Mike Burnside
Director: Peter Hall
Revival Director: James Robert Carson
Designer: John Gunter
Lighting: Hartley T A Kemp