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Mrs Warren's Profession

On our way to the Courthauld Institute, we passed by the Strand Theatre where the Saturday matinee had just begun. George Bernard Shaw's play was banned for almost 30 years after he had written it.

"I love Shaw. Let's go see it," said my friend.

I had spent the previous night researching what plays I wanted to see. There were at least three, but "Mrs Warren's Profession" was not one of them. I wanted to see "Vincent in Brixton" to learn more about Vincent Van Gogh. I wanted to see Glenn Close close up, in "A Streetcar Named Desire". I wanted to see "The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband."

The only thing I remember about Bernard Shaw is his remark to a ballerina who wanted to marry him and have his children. "Our children will have your brains and my looks," she persuaded. He responded,"But what if they had your brains and my looks?"

We arrived half an hour before the evening show to queue for returns. It looked like it was going to be sold out. There was a long queue to collect tickets. There was no queue at the ticket-purchase and return window. A tall American suggested to the manager to split the ticket-collection queue into two and use the second window. The manager replied that this was the way it was, for crowd control.

Ten minutes before the show began, we finally got our tickets, at £15 for £37.50 seats. Already I felt pretty good.

The words "brothel", "madame", "prostitute", and "unmarried mother" were not uttered in the play. Yet in the verbose lines delivered so eloquently by the two actresses and four actors, it became clear just what Mrs Warren's profession was. She overcame her destitute circumstances and became a wealthy businesswoman.

The play was not a comedy but a morality play. My friend and I did not speak after the play, for I was too disturbed to find words. If a mother could spend her life toiling to make ends meet, particularly to raise her daughter to become a morally-honest, educated lady, albeit at a distance, surely she deserves to be thanked rather than judged and rejected? As a mother, she demands to be loved as one. She feels it's her daughter's duty to accept her. Yet, her daughter only feels disgust and contempt.

This play reminds me of a man who does not appreciate what his parents did for him. His mother started working full-time since he was six months old. She put him through private school. He would rather that she didn't work and had more time for him than to have had all the opportunities which he did not welcome.

I am also reminded of the power children have over their parents. What if the child grows up ungrateful and vindictive? How disappointed and hurt the parent would be! But then, I've never been a parent. I can only speculate.

19 October 2002 Saturday

Show reviews
George Bernard Shaw
Shaw's works
From What's On Stage:
Miss Vivie Warren is a very independent girl, but then she can afford to be; she has a scholarship at Cambridge and a generous monthly allowance from her mother. She is also a very modern young woman; nothing shocks her. So how will she react when she finds out where the money comes from? Written in 1894 and banned until 1925.
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