The Chemainus Theatre Festival presents the scandalous classic, Mrs Warren’s Profession, from Sept. 13.
This is one of George Bernard Shaw’s most controversial plays.
Mrs. Warren must attempt to reconcile with her disapproving daughter in a story sprinkled generously with sharp comedy and biting social commentary that remains relevant today.
Mrs. Warren manages a flourishing business that funds her daughter Vivie’s education at the finest boarding schools and universities; all while keeping her profession as a “madam” a secret.
Vivie, a “modern woman,” comes home to acquaint herself with her mother for the first time in her life and demands to know her mother’s secret but is unprepared to hear it. She challenges her mother in a two-woman battle of ideas between upper-class expectations and lower-class realities. Mrs. Warren’s position is that poverty and a society that condones it constitutes true immorality, while Vivie recognizes her mother’s courage, but grapples with her ongoing involvement in the business.
Mrs. Warren’s Profession was written by George Bernard Shaw in 1893 and published in 1898, but was not performed until 1902 due to government censorship of its primary subject matter. Even then, it was only produced as a private showing at London’s New Lyric Club.
Shaw, an Irish playwright, critic, and political activist, used his public persona to promote ideas of social reform. He was obsessed with the inequalities of society, particularly around the disparity between the classes and lack of women’s rights; he found these morally unjust.
In defending his play, Shaw claimed he needed to “draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused, not by female depravity and male licentiousness, but simply by underpaying, undervaluing, and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution to keep body and soul together.” Further, he argued “starvation, overwork, dirt, and disease are as anti-social as prostitution.”
There is some irony to be realized when one considers that while Mrs. Warren’s Profession was known as a proto-feminist text, it was first performed in a club where women could only enter upon special occasion, and then only if accompanied by a man.
Some argue that Shaw created a conversation about women, rather than with women. Regardless, Mrs. Warren’s Profession still has the power to provoke conversations in present day. The playwright was never one to dodge what he saw as a real issue.
In this production, you’ll see Tariq Leslie as Mr. Praed, Martha Ansfield-Scrase as Vivie Warren, Erin Ormond as Mrs. Kitty Warren, Declan O’Reilly as Sir George Crofts, Julien Galipeau as Frank Gardner and Stephen Aberle as Reverend Samuel Gardner, all under the direction of Heather Cant.
Call the Box Office at 1-800-565-7738 or visit chemainustheatre.ca to book your tickets. It’s not a long run, and you don’t want to be disappointed.