Shaw’s defense of prostitution as a suitable and sensible option for women with good looks and no training or skills probably seemed logical, even sensible, when it was written. Today the arguments have much less power since women have so many more choices. But still today there are many stories of young women who earn the money they need for tuition by prostituting themselves. And other young women lacking education or desperate to get out of repressive regimes are lured into prostitution in such numbers that human trafficking stories are frequently on the front pages. So the arguments rage on.
Let us ignore the argument and consider the production. Good but not great would be my summary. I think it suffers from a lack of commitment to a point of view.
The play is updated to a contemporary men’s club, to referto the fact that the first production was staged in a club because the Lord Chamberlain refused permission for a play about an unrepentant prostitute to be performed in a public theatre. So begins the shifting viewpoints.
If the play is contemporary, the shock and contempt expressed by Vivie is inappropriate. It was much more believable in Shaw’s time when ideas of morality were much more rigid. Jennifer Dzialoszynski presents her as a modern young woman, but not today’s modern. She is still in the early twentieth century. At the end, you are left wondering when she will grow up and develop some compassion to go with her principles.
Nicole Underhay as Mrs Warren is more believable, as her arguments still ring true today. She manages to be funny, cynical, passionate and sad, sometimes all in the same scene. My sympathy and understanding stayed with her to the end.
Thom Marriott was excellent as Sir George Crofts. Wade Bogert O’Brien did his usual great job of playing the young romantic lead. This is particularly difficult in this play as Frank often behaves like a complete ass. Gray Powell and Sean Wright completed the cast as Praed and the Reverend Gardner.
Overall, I enjoyed it, but I would have have taken quite a different approach.