theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
The power to shock still resides in the text of Mrs Warren’s Profession, which tells in four acts the story of a prim and proper young woman who discovers the true extent of her mother’s business practices. One can see where a certain sort of modern audience might even find the piece distasteful, were Shaw’s statements of the hypocrisy that goes unspoken in modern society delivered with true passion.
Unfortunately, this co-production between the Nottingham Playhouse and the Royal Lyceum takes an easy, somewhat staid approach to Shaw’s work. Neil Murray’s set, incorporating newspaper text and a light, airy feel at the outset, is fresh and charming while Vivie Warren (Emma Stansfield) is in the country, moving to a dark, foreboding office (which recalls a similar setting in last year’s Death of a Salesman, but then again how many ways can one portray an oppressive office) after she moves to Chancery Lane to start her career.
The acting glides along the plot, but there are no real stand-out performances here, with the possible exception of a few moments when Dougal Lee’s Sir George Crofts reveals his mercenary side. Even this is only momentary.
Overall, the production lacks focus, and while audience members enjoyed it there is not much to think about that isn’t directly said in Shaw’s text. It would seem that Tony Cownie’s direction is largely to blame, especially toward the end of the piece where it is impossible to tell if the reactions of Mr Praed (John Bett) and Frank Gardner (Antony Eden) to Vivie’s revelations of her mother’s indiscretions are because they truly had no idea what was going on (which seems unlikely, but is how the scene is played) or because she is at last making explicit what had hitherto been implied.
This is a glossy, smooth, and yet lacklustre production which will satisfy Shaw fans and audiences looking simply for an evening of light entertainment. Anyone looking for theatre that will resonate once they leave the theatre can give it a miss and simply read the text, as seeing this piece up on its feet in these circumstances does not add to what one might otherwise glean from the work.
Rachel Lynn Brody © 2007
Originally published on R&V 23-02-07
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