United Players of Vancouver

Mrs. Warren's Profession
By George Bernard Shaw

Venue: Jericho Arts Centre
Dates: 5 - 28 September 2003

Reviewer: Jane Penistan


Director Don S. Wilson Costume design Moira Fentum Lighting design Serje Robidoux Sound design Darren W. Hales Stage manager Philip Richard Black





Mrs. Warren's Profession

Before the commencement of this first production of the 2003 -2004 season the audience were regaled with instrumental and vocal numbers by Strings Attached. Andree Karas, who is celebrating her 20th year as Artistic Director of the United Players then thanked various members of the company for their long and devoted voluntary service to the theatre company and presented them each with a gift. She also announced that this would be the first season in which the Jericho Arts Centre would be solely for the promotion of the arts. Other music drama and fine art organizations will be seen here in the future. A list of all the events at this Centre is enclosed in the programme for Mrs. Warren's Profession, United Players' current season opening production.

Categorized as an unpleasant play, this is Shaw's argument for liberating women from the slavery of domesticity or earning a living in the world's oldest profession. A sharp expose of Victorian hypocrisy and the exploitation of women, this play was banned in England's theatres for many years after it was written.

Vivie has completed the Cambridge Tripos in Mathematics, equaling the marks of the third Wrangler (the senior Wrangler is the top mathematical graduate of his year). She is not interested in the Arts but is studying law in order to join her friend Honoria Fraser in her chambers in Chancery Lane to do actuarial calculations with a little law on the side, and earn her own living. Vivie hardly knows her mother who has lived abroad most of Vivie's life. Mrs. Warren visits England and her daughter seldom, but appears to be well off, well connected and to have many friends. Some of these friends appear here in more or less states of grace or disgrace.

Vivie is the unconventional Victorian young lady who wears strictly tailored clothes in contrast to the fashionable overblown styles of her day. She has a good grip in her hand as she has on life in general. Played by Naomi Wright, Vivie is convincing and intelligent. Her mother, Mrs. Warren, (Grace Bauer) is wonderfully overdressed and an actress being an actress. The mother and daughter initial indifference and the understanding which develops through time are well developed and believable. Mrs. Warren has a way with her gentlemen friends and with the son of the local parson. Even this rural clergyman the Reverend Samuel

Gardner, (John Burnside) is an old flame of sophisticated Mrs. Warren. Martin Keller is a gentle Mr. Praed, a lover of beauty and the arts, and perhaps the least unpleasant of the men in this play. The Sir George Crofts of Allen Gibson is a hard-bitten exploiter of anyone and thinks he will conveniently marry Mrs. Warren's daughter Vivie to his advantage and the women's supposed financial stability. But is he really the vicious character Shaw wrote, under that pseudo gentlemanly manner? Frank (Kirk Smith) has all the charm and insouciance of the wellbred layabout, who expects to get what he wants in life with no effort on his part, by his ability to please superficially and temporarily.

Don S. Wilson directs this production with insight, intelligence and an appreciation of Shaw's biting satirical wit.

The programme gives no information as to who designed the beautifully ingenious set. Shaw wrote explicit descriptions for four different sets. In these days of no curtain, scene changing can be tedious for the audience, however slickly it is performed. Here two sets are joined in one, the garden and interior of Vivie's summer cottage in Acts 1 and 2, and the rectory garden, slightly rearranged from Act 1 with Honoria's chambers in Chancery Lane behind it, for Acts 3 and 4. These all work extremely well, without any problematic entrances or exits and give the actors room to move unrestrictedly, even Mrs. Warren in her magnificent voluminous dresses - like a ship under full sail in a following wind. Vivie's student fashion of tailored costumes and schoolboy ties is suitably attractive in its own style. The men are more difficult to dress as Victorian middle class gentlemen but, for the most part, these are well done, with attention to details.

Darren W. Hales' lighting provides bright sunshine and warm lamplight, with the grey of the city's business district in the final scene.

United Players have opened their season with a high standard of production, something audiences have come to expect from this company. Shaw's plays are not often performed in these days, except at Niagara on the Lake, so here is an opportunity to enjoy a rare theatrical treat. Thank you United Players.

Mrs. Warren's Profession runs at the Jericho Arts Centre 1675 Discovery Street, September 5-28, 2993, Thursday through Sunday, at 8.00 p.m. Tickets available at the door, $12.00 - $18.00 For reservations and more information call 604-224-8007, or visit www.unitedplayers.com

2003, Jane Penistan