23 November 2022
MRS WARREN’S PROFESSION (Richmond Theatre) Review
In general, I’m not a massive fan of George Bernard Shaw: the plays are long, and the dialogue is very taxing on the brain. I do, however, love seeing Caroline Quentin on stage and so decided to give this Theatre Royal Bath production a chance.
To sum up the story, everyone in the play knows or guesses what Mrs. Warren’s profession is, except for her daughter Vivie. Mrs. Warren comes to visit her daughter in the country to reconcile and justify her life choices. A lively discussion about the merits of prostitution in society ensues (don’t worry, the profession in question is made abundantly clear to the audience a handful of minutes into the play). The dialogue is patchy in places, but Anthony Banks’ direction attempts to give the play a bit of structure and keep the story from sliding all over the place, although the overall pace is very slow.
David Woodhead’s costume and set design makes for terrible sightlines. Everyone is wearing wide-brim hats in the first act, and a good chunk of time in the second act is spent sitting under a table umbrella. Whilst that’s all lovely from the stalls, it all covers up faces pretty significantly, thus making for rubbish viewing from the balcony.
Caroline Quentin’s Mrs. Warren was a bit more cartoonish than I would’ve liked. She is meant to have come to the country to reconcile with her daughter, but, with the exception of one scene, her demeanour is rather hoity-toity and pouty. It’s as if she is perpetually displeased and is about to stick her bottom lip out in a huff, but we don’t quite know why. Even so, her performance lights up the stage and makes the time fly as she goes from scene to scene manipulating everyone.
Rose Quentin, Caroline Quentin’s real-life daughter, is also her stage daughter, Vivie. She is upbeat and lively, but her delivery is fairly flat and robotic, and she’s firing a zillion words a minute. I don’t know where she found time to breathe between her lines, but this made it very laborious to focus on and process what she was saying. I would’ve preferred a slower pace and broader emotional range from the younger Quentin, especially in the second act.
The rest of the cast do a fine job, though no one in particular stands out. I felt that Caroline Quentin’s talents were a tad wasted on this play. At the same time, I can’t think of anyone else who would’ve made it half as watchable…
Cheapskate enjoyment value: £3.