Shaw poses questions that horrified the play's first audiences, and still challenge modern sensibilities - when "women's work" is so often undervalued, should a woman be looked down upon for making a decent living through "indecent" means?
—Joff Schmidt, CBC Theatre Reviewer
The plight of the working poor, the struggle women face to get ahead in business, and a young woman's rebellious desire not to follow in her mother's footsteps - these are themes that wouldn't be out of place in a play written today. And they're still surprisingly fresh and relevant in the MTC Warehouse's solid production of George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession, a play written in 1894 (but deemed so scandalous it wasn't performed until several years later).
The play centres around Mrs. Kitty Warren (Seana McKenna), a pragmatic woman of means, and her privileged, well-educated, and equally pragmatic daughter Vivie (Cherissa Richards). Surrounding the tough and sensible Warren women are men who are either childishly irresponsible, like Vivie's young suitor Frank (Tom Keenan); ineffectual, like Mrs. Warren's faithful friend Praed (Gordon Tanner); hypocritical (Frank's father, Reverend Samuel, played by Stephen Russell); or callous (Mrs. Warren's "business partner" Crofts, played by Arne MacPherson). In Shaw's Victorian setting, it's men who have made an utter mess of the world - the women seem the only hope for righting it.
But conflict arises when Vivie, who has enjoyed the fruits of her mother's wealth (a Cambridge education, for example) realizes that Mrs. Warren's profession is the world's oldest. Through the scenes between the two women, Shaw poses questions that horrified the play's first audiences, and still challenge modern sensibilities - when "women's work" is so often undervalued, should a woman be looked down upon for making a decent living through "indecent" means? Is it wrong for Vivie to profit from her mother's line of work? And is Mrs. Warren an unfit mother because of how she chooses to provide for her child, and herself?