Bernard Shaw’s controversial examination of Victorian hypocrisy is an interesting comment on the themes of capitalism and human nature.
The narrative revolves around the central relationship between mother and daughter: Vivie Warren, and Mrs Warren. Vivie has been treated to a substantially refined education, but what she is due to discover is that her education and life style are but the by-product of her mothers’ life and dealings in prostitution.
When the liberal, ambitious, and well read Vivie learns of the origins of her fortunate upbringing she is understandably outraged, giving Lucy Briggs-Owen the chance to convincingly display the strong conflict between the emotions of the characters situation, with the emotionless characteristics of Vivie’s usual persona.
Felicity Kendal does well in the role of Mrs Warren; clearly conveying the actress that Warren can not help to be, whilst not particularly giving much in the way of a development in character throughout the discourse of the performance.
Michael Rudman’s direction is passable in most instances, and is clear in its intention. However, sometimes it does verge on becoming uninspiring bland, and the steam train that is the delivery of dialogue can become, at points, a Wimbledon of the passing of words.
Paul Farnsworth’s design, whilst srtiking at first, becomes almost instantly bland and does nothing more than evoke location, making no intention of elevating meaning or moral.
What the Victorian public, and press, seemed to struggle with about Shaw’s piece is that he neither seems to side with the profession that Mrs Warren possesses in order to keep herself financially comfortable, or Vivies’ libertarian attitude. It is, in fact, this presentation rather than argument which proves to be the highlight of the performance; giving an insight into both sides of the capitalist story and example.
It is this which helped me to maintain a mostly positive outlook on the piece, rather than this particular production.
- Ben Wooldridge (reviewed 9th November)