Stoke Rep Players
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote more than sixty plays in his lifetime combining both contemporary satire and historical allegory. He became the leading dramatist of his generation and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. His extensive works include Pygmalion, written in 1912, which was later employed as the basis for the well-known movie My Fair Lady.
Mrs Warren's Profession was penned in 1893, and first performed in London in 1902. The play is about a former prostitute, now a madam and brothel owner who attempts to form a relationship with her daughter. It's a play about secrets - underlying a mysterious tone as every interaction and conversation seems to carry a sequence of surprises and revelations which in turn leaves the listener questioning this secrecy, the denials and corruption that would have been, in its day, cleverly disguised by upper class civility. The title may reference Mrs Warren but the story really belongs to Vivie and about how this new relationship with her mother changes her.
Directed by James Freeman with set design by Eloise Hands, the Stoke Repertory Theatre Players bring this dramatic and thought-provoking play to the stage this week.
Kitty Warren is played assuredly by Caroline Wicks who, being no stranger to the stage, shows both the strong, witty and gentle sides of Mrs Warren’s personality as she tries in vain to convince her daughter of her lifestyle and choices. Elena Fox plays Vivie Warren brilliantly and is convincing as the headstrong, sensible young woman who battles with her emotions throughout the story, keeping her moral head held high.
Hopeless romantic artist Mr Praed, played by Chris Potter, visits Mrs Warren and happens upon Vivie. His devotion to art and beauty is a contrast to Vivie's stark realism. Potter plays the part well and upholds this gentle contrast as the story unfolds.
Vivie’s love interest Frank Gardner is played by James King. Frank is the dashing and charming yet unemployed and uneducated son of Reverend Gardener (Howard Thorpe). Although Frank sees Evie as a financial and social meal ticket, King's portrayal of Gardener is admirable as he plays both an untrustworthy, immoral character but also a protective one when he defends Evie from Crofts.
The plot deepens as we discover Reverend Gardner's history with Mrs Warren. Thorpe plays this part perfectly as the Reverend fails to hide his true self and reveals himself to be just as immoral and as guilty as everyone else. Quintessential Victorian gentleman, Sir George Crofts (John Wicks) is Mrs Warren's business partner who surprises us with an unexpected proposal. Crofts is the antagonist - an honest yet calculating and selfish man, prepared to get his own way, later revealing a secret primarily out of spite.
Excellent and flowing performances by a strong and competent cast ensure a well paced production. The revolving stage ensures a quick set turnaround for the four acts and the beautiful gardens, home and office scenes are well dressed and a delight to see. Luxuriously costumed and very well read this is a play for lovers of great classic and reflective literature.
Runs to 21 April
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