The World of the Play
The play takes place in Victorian England where a young woman, who spent most of her life in various boarding schools, is preparing to meet her mother whom she has not seen for a very long time and knows almost nothing about. The woman’s name is Vivie Warren, and after graduating from the University of Cambridge, she started looking for potential suitors. A young man named Frank wants to marry her, but, in fact, is more interested in her money.
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His father has a history with Vivie’s mother Kitty Warren and opposes the marriage. The play revolves around the relationship between Vivie and her mother (Shaw 83). Vivie did not know how her mother accumulated her wealth and when she finds out that Kitty runs a number of brothels in the city, she is mortified. The conflict comes from Vivie’s need to understand why her mother chose this line of work and whether any of the men who seek Vivie’s hand are suitable to marry her. In an insightful speech, Kitty explains that she was forced to become a prostitute due to the lack of options that Victorian England provided to women. Vivie understands her reasoning but is unable to accept it when she finds out that Kitty is still a brothel madam after the need for money has gone.
The themes of the play are surprisingly relevant despite its age. “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” was written in 1893 by George Bernard Shaw. However, the sincerity and insight into the socioeconomic issues that the play provides are both simple and informed enough to have weight in the modern era. The primary theme of the play is the role of women in society and how the perceptions of it often limit the options provided to them. In the Victorian era, women were extremely limited in their career pursuits.
The majority could become factory workers, waitresses, or occupy other service positions, with rare exceptions allowed for wealthier women with status. Instead of following these career paths, Kitty chose to become a prostitute because they were paid better and received better treatment at their workplace. While the public opinion was against her, Kitty still became a wealthy woman who was able to afford high-class education for her daughter. Only by going against the societal norms for female employment was she able to achieve her goals, which suggests that there is something wrong with the society as a whole.
The second theme is less obvious but can still be found in the text of the play. It concerns the suitors of Vivie and why she decides to never marry at the end of the play. Throughout the play, she has to choice between a young man, who sees her as a meal ticket, an older man, who is handsome and well mannered, and an old man with a very poor moral compass. She chooses no one and seems to lose all faith in romantic relationships.
Each of the suitors saw her mostly as an object, or something they are entitled to instead of a person, and this feeling is the second theme of the play. Both themes suggest that the prejudice and false ideas about the role of women in the society only serve to make their lives worse and that perhaps they should be reevaluated.
The actors performed quite well, with Erika Soto’s Vivie and Judith Scott’s Kitty being the standouts of the cast. Their chemistry portrayed the complex relationship between the characters in an unusually relatable fashion. Jeremy Rabb’s portrayal of Sir George Croft was also excellent and elicited appropriately negative emotions toward his character (“Mrs. Warren’s Profession”).
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Michael Michetti directed the play and chose to keep the production relatively minimal in decorations. While the scenery uses era-appropriate chairs and other furniture, the majority of the scenes take place against a blank background. However, this does not reflect badly on the production, as it brings additional focus to the characters and the work that costumers put into their outfits. The production as a whole left a positive impression, with none of the elements feeling out of place.
I found the play to be engaging from a dramatic point of view. The interconnection of the characters and the conflict that Vivie experiences were emotionally affecting and the unfortunate ending of her relationship with Kitty left me feeling slightly distressed. However, I really enjoyed the ending because it brought up an issue of acceptance of prostitution. Vivie was able to come to terms with her mother’s past but still looked down on prostitution as a profession.
I believe it reflects how relatively progressive people often judge sex workers despite understanding the reasons behind their choice. While there are countries that hold a different point of view on prostitution, such attitudes are still present in our society. I would definitely recommend this play to people interested in complex relationships and social sciences.
“Mrs. Warren’s Profession” A Noise Within, 2017. Web.
Shaw, Bernard. Mrs Warren’s Profession. Broadview Press, 2005.