Mrs Warren’s Profession, a thought-provoking play is being staged as part of the Shaw Festival 2016.
George Bernard Shaw who penned the play once went on to say “Ah, when I wrote that, I had some nerve.” Indeed the play tackled a complex topic–prostitution– and it ruffled quite a few feathers back in the day. Shaw wrote the play in 1893 and it made its stage debut in 1902 in London but many shows thereafter faced a lot of opposition due to the controversial nature of its topic.
Mrs Warren's Profession at Shaw Festival
The word ‘profession’ in the title refers to prostitution and the play revolves around Mrs Kitty Warren a former prostitute who runs a brothel and her daughter Vivie. When Vivie returns home after graduating from university, she starts dating Frank Gardner, the son of Reverend Samuel Gardner. In due course she learns the truth about her mother’s former profession and is unable to accept the fact initially. Her mother tries to explain the reasons she got into the profession and how the money from it helped Vivie get a better life and opened several opportunities. Vivie eventually reconciles to the fact that her mother was a former prostitute and even hails her as a champion. Unfortunately, she soon learns something else about her mother’s present day business which shatters her as well as Mrs Warren completely.
The play examines the double-standards related to prostitution and the consequences it has on the mother-daughter relationship. It is very bold in its theme and back in the day its staging was banned in England.
Headline Bernard Shaw Play
The play was finally allowed to be staged again in 1926. In New York, the actors were actually arrested after their first performance in the city. In a 1925 programme note, Shaw wrote,
““Mrs Warren’s profession is a vested interest; and when a woman of bold character and commercial ability applies to herself the commercial principles that are ruthlessly applied to her in the labour market, the result is Kitty Warren. You will hear her justify herself completely on those principles. Whether you and I, as citizens and voters, will be able to justify ourselves, on higher principles than those of commerce, for having made her justification not only possible but unanswerable, is another matter. I cannot pretend to feel easy about it. Can you?”
The subject of the play continues to resonate even today with audiences worldwide
Mrs Warren’s Profession is being staged at the Royal George Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake currently and will continue to show till October 23, 2016. Directed by Eda Holmes, the play is suitable for ages 15+, and has a running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.
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