Vancouver Playhouse

Mrs. Warren’s Profession

by George Bernard Shaw

Directed by Glynis Leyshon


Until March 7, 1998


by Ed Farolan

Bernard Shaw (he didn’t like to be called George) in this complex play makes a scathing attack against the Edwardian/Victorian mood prevailing during his time by writing a play about a prostitute. Shaw referred to this play, together with two others, Widower’s House and The Philanderer, “Plays Unpleasant” because he exposed all that was bad in his society forcing the audience to face unpleasant facts about themselves. This anti-theatre approach resulted in the Lord Chamberlain’s Examiner of Plays to ban the play for 30 years in Britain. In its first American staging in 1905, the entire cast was arrested.

Artistic Director Glynis Leyshon takes this complex play and does an interestingly viable production out of it. The unpleasantness that ends the play with a negative tone is Shaw’s way of showing how un-Christian his society, as well as our 90s society , is because Christ taught forgiveness to sinners, but we still are scandalized and cannot tolerate and, using the Christian term “forgive”, prostitutes, thieves and other “sinners”. The symbolism of our society’s alienation represented by Mrs. Warren’s daughter, Vivie, when she breaks away from her mother and her fiancee, was well done with the jail-like metaphor in the stage setting. I just wished that the lights had lingered longer before the final blackout to get through the message of alienation and unforgiveness.

I was impressed by the acting; the actors, using theatre parlance, “owned their lines” and had a flowing rapport with each other. Goldie Semple as Mrs. Warren was “vulgarian”, using Shaw’s term, in both her accent and character. Jennifer Clement as Vivie was “oxfordian”, with her crisp King’s English; Allan Gray as Praed and Larry Yachimec as Crofts played their parts exquisitely; William Webster as the Reverend with his nervousness evoked a lot of laughs; and John Ullyat as Frank Gardner won the audience’s vote for best actor. The only other thing that bothered me was Leyshon could have trimmed some of Shaw’s dialogues which tended to be too long, boring and pedantic.

Copyright 1998 Ed Farolan