Mrs Warren's Profession

Play by George Bernard Shaw. Mrs Warren's daughter, Vivie, has never realy known much about her mother. A prim young woman, she has enjoyed a comfortable upbringing, a ambridge education, a generous monthly allowance and now has ambitions to go into the Law. Is it conceivable that all this priviledge and respecability has been financed from the proceeds of the oldest profession? How will Vivie react when she finds out the awful truth about her mother's ill-gotten gains? Shaw's ultimate test of a mother-daughter relationship is one of his most witty and provocative plays. Written in 1894 but banned from performance in Britain until the racy 1920s, Mrs Warren's Profession lays bare the rampant hypocrisy of Victorian society and its constrained morals.

Shaw's brilliantly provocative and superbly witty comedy, controversial in its time, is now acknowledged as a true classic.

1898 'Copyright Performance' at the Victoria Hall

1925: Premiere London Production with Florence Jackson at the Regent Theatre

1926: Premiere West End London Production with Edyth Goodall at the Strand Theatre

1926: London Revival with Florence Jackson at the Chelsea Palace Theatre

1928: London Revival with Leah Bateman at the Little Theatre

1929: London Revival with Leah Bateman at the Embassy Theatre

1931: London Revival with Miriam Lewes at the Court Theatre

1947: London Revival with Dorthy Green at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

1949: London Revival with Hazel Hughes at the Bedford Theatre

1950: London Revival with Aletha Orr at the Arts Theatre

1956: London Revival with Ellen Pollock at the Royal Court Theatre

1957: London Revival with Irena Eichler at the 20th Century Theatre

1965: London Revival with June Jago at the Hampstead Theatre

1970: London Revival with Coral Browne at the Old Vic Theatre

1985: London Revival with Joan Plowright/Yvonne Bryceland at the Lyttelton Theatre

1996: London Revival with Maggie Steed at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

2002: 1st West End London Revival with Brenda Blethyn at the Strand Theatre

2010: 2nd West End London Revival with Felicity Kendal at the Comedy Theatre

George Bernard Shaw's other London theatre plays include Pygmalion (adapted into the musical My Fair Lady), Saint Joan, and You Never Can Tell (adapted into the musical Valentine's Day).


1898 'Copyright Performance'

30 March 1898 (one performance) at the Victoria Hall

A couple of weeks before the play was published, a 'copyright performance' of Mrs Warren's Profession and Shaw's The Philanderer was presented as a 'double-bill' at the Victoria Hall in Archer Street, Notting Hill (now renamed The 20th Century Theatre at the renamed/numbered 291 Westbourne Grove).

For this performance, the play was substantially edited, which included the removal of the whole of Act 3, in order to be approved for performance by the 'Examiner of Plays', on behalf of the Lord Chamberlain.

A copyright performance was a perfunctory single 'staged-reading' performance given in order for the playwright to protect the performing rights - the rights to control performances - before the play appeared in published printed form.


1925: Premiere London Production with Florence Jackson

Opened Monday 28 September 1925, Closed 16 December 1925 (in repertory) at the Regent Theatre (now demolished)

The cast featured Florence Jackson as 'Mrs Warren', Valerie Richards as 'Vivie Warren', Charles Sewell as 'Sir George Crofts', Arthur Claremont as 'Rev Samuel Gardner', George Bancroft as 'Frank Gardner', and Oliver Johnston as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Mr S Esme Percy.

This first public performance in London was presented by the Macdona Players for 21 peformances as part of a 15-week Bernard Shaw Repertory Season from 7 September to 19 December 1925.

The first public performance in Great Britain took place on Monday 8 June 1925 at the Edinburgh Royal Lyceum Theatre, with the same cast, for three-performances as part of a three-week repertory season of Bernard Shaw plays presented by the Macdona Players. The repertory season then toured to the Glasgow King's Theatre, the Birmingham Prince of Wales Theatre, the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, and the Nottinghm Theatre Royal before opening in London.

The Regent Theatre was a 1,380-seater theatre located in the Euston Road, opposite St Pancras Railway Station.


1926: Premiere West End London Production with Edyth Goodall

Opened 3 March 1926 (no previews), Closed 1 May 1926 at the Strand Theatre (now Novello Theatre)

The cast featured Edyth Goodall as 'Mrs Warren', Agatha Kentish as 'Vivie Warren', Arthur Bouchier as 'Sir George Crofts', Orlando Barnett as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Carleton Hobbs as 'Frank Gardner', and Fisher White as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Bernard Shaw, with Mr S Esme Percy.

Presented by Arthur Bouchier as a co-production with the Charles Mandona Players.


1926: London Revival with Florence Jackson

From 4 October to 13 November 1926 (repertory season) at the Chelsea Palace Theatre (now demolished)

The Macdona Players present a six-week repertory season of Bernard Shaw's play, including a handful of performances of Mrs Warren's Profession with Florence Jackson in the title role.

The 2,500-seater Chelsea Palace Theatre was located at 232 to 242 Kings Road, on the corner of Sydney Street, and has now been rebuilt as shops and the Chelsea Court Place Care Home.


1928: London Revival with Leah Bateman

Opened 6 February 1928, Closed 11 February 1928 at the Little Theatre (now demolished)

The cast featured Leah Bateman as 'Mrs Warren', Dora Macdona as 'Vivie Warren', George Bancroft as 'Frank Gardner', Francis L Sullivan as 'Sir George Crofts', and Frank Darch as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner'.

Directed by Mr S Esma Percy.

Presented by the Macdona Players.

The 371-seater Little Theatre at Adelphi was located in a converted banking hall on the north side of John Street, now John Adam Street. An office block named 'Adelphi' now covers the area that included the theatre.


1929: London Revival with Leah Bateman

Monday 25 February 1929 to Saturday 6 April 1929 (repertory season) at the Embassy Theatre

The Macdona Players present a six-week repertory season of Bernard Shaw's play, including a handful of performances of Mrs Warren's Profession with Leah Bateman in the title role.

The 670-seater Embassy Theatre 64 Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, is now part of the Central School of Speech and Drama.


1931: London Revival with Miriam Lewes

Opened 30 March 1931 (no previews), Closed 11 April 1931 at the Court Theatre (now Royal Court Theatre)

The cast featured Miriam Lewes as 'Mrs Warren', Rosalinde Fuller as 'Vivie Warren', Wilfrid Lawson as Sir George Crofts', Stanley Drewitt as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', George E Bancroft as 'Frank Gardner', and Clifford Bartlett as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Charles Macdona.

Presented by the Macdona Players.


1947: London Revival with Dorthy Green

Opened 13 January 1947 (no previews), Closed 25 January 1947 at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

The cast featured Dorothy Green as 'Mrs Warren', Ann Farrer as 'Vivie Warren', Charles Cameron as 'Sir George Crofts', Thomas Dance as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Nigel Buchanan as 'Frank Gardner', and Graham Crowden as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by by David Horne.


1949: London Revival with Hazel Hughes

Opened 27 June 1949 (no previews), Closed 2 July 1949 at the Bedford Theatre, Camden (demolished)

The cast featured Hazel Hughes as 'Mrs Warren', Elizabeth Kentish as 'Vivie', Oliver Burt as 'Sir George Crofts', John Sharp as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Paul Daneman as 'Frank Gardner', and James Ottaway as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Douglas Seale.

Presented for a one-week run as the last play in a six-week season of George Bernard Shaw plays.

The Bedford Theatre was a 1,150-seater theatre located at 93 to 95 Camden High Street, now demolished and replaced by shops and offices.


1950: London Revival with Aletha Orr

Opened 25 January 1950 (no previews), Closed 26 February 1950 at the Arts Theatre

The cast featured Aletha Orr as 'Mrs Warren', Brenda Bruce as 'Vivie Warren', Eric Berry as 'Sir George Crofts', Douglas Jefferies as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Vernon Greeves as 'Frank Gardner', and Nicholas Meredith as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Roy Rich, with designs by Michael Warre.


1956: London Revival with Ellen Pollock

Opened 24 July 1956 (no previews), Closed 27 July 1956 (three performances) at the Royal Court Theatre

The cast featured Ellen Pollock as 'Mrs Warren', Julia Worth as 'Vivie Warren', Terence O'Brien as Sir George Crofts', Michael Golden as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Howard Williams as 'Frank Gardner', and Richard Morris as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Terence O'Brien.

Three afternoon matinee performances - on Tuesday 24, Thursday 26, and Friday 27 July 1956 - marking the 100th Anniversary of the birth of George Bernard Shaw 26 July 1856 and presented by Terence O'Brien's Rock Theatre Company in aid of Denville Hall, a retirement home for actors, actresses and other theatrical professions.


1957: London Revival with Irena Eichler

Opened 26 December 1957 (no previews), Closed 6 January 1958 at the 20th Century Theatre

The cast featured Irena Eichler (AKA Irena Eichlerowna) as 'Mrs Warren', Krystine Dygat as 'Vivie Warren', Stanislaw Belski as 'Sir George Crofts', Adolf Bozynski as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Wladyslaw Sheybal as 'Frank Gardner', and Arthur Butcher as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Wladyslaw Sheybal, with designs by Stanislaw Mikula.

Performed in Polish by Teatr Nowy, group of Polish actors living in exile in London.

The 20th Century Theatre is located at 291 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, and is notable for being the location of the first 'copyright' performance of Mrs Warren's Profession in March 1898 (see above).


1965: London Revival with June Jago

Opened 22 April 1965 (no previews), Closed 15 May 1965 at the Hampstead Theatre

The cast featured June Jago as 'Mrs Warren', Ann Firbank as 'Vivie Warren', Douglas Muir as 'Sir George Crofts', Roger Booth as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Gary Bond as 'Frank Gardner', and Tenniel Evans as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Philip Grout, and designs by Michael Young.


1970: London Revival with Coral Browne

Previewed 22 December 1970, Opened 30 December 1970, Closed 1 July 1971 (in repertory) at the Old Vic Theatre

The cast featured Coral Browne as 'Mrs Warren', Sarah Bade as 'Vivie Warren', Bill Fraser as 'Sir George Crofts', Paul Curran as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Ronald Pickup as 'Frank Gardner', and Edward Hardwicke as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Ronald Eyre, with sets by Alan Tagg, and costumes by David Walker.

Presented by the National Theatre.


1985: London Revival with Joan Plowright/Yvonne Bryceland

Previewed 4 October 1985, Opened 10 October 1985, Closed 10 May 1986 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

The cast featured Joan Plowright as 'Mrs Warren' (up to 17 February 1986), Yvonne Bryceland as 'Mrs Warren' (from 6 March 1986), Jessica Turner as 'Vivie Warren', John Savident as 'Sir George Crofts', Nicholas Selby as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Mark Payton as 'Frank Gardner', and Robin Bailey as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Anthony Page, with sets by Patrick Robertson, costumes by Rosemary Vercoe, lighting by Robert Bryan, and music by Gary Carpenter.


1996: London Revival with Maggie Steed

Previewed 17 October 1996, Opened 21 October 1996, Closed 30 November 1996 at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

The cast featured Maggie Steed as 'Mrs Warren', Catherine Cusack as 'Vivie Warren', Ian Gelder as 'Sir George Crofts', John Quentin as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Gregor Truter as 'Frank Gardner', andNeil Stacy as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Neil Bartlett, with designs by Rae Smith, and lighting by Hugh Vanstone.


2002: 1st West End London Revival with Brenda Blethyn

Previewed 2 October 2002, Opened 10 October 2002, Closed 18 January 2003 at the Strand Theatre (now Novello Theatre)

A major revival of George Bernard Shaw's play Mrs Warren's Profession starring Brenda Blethyn and directed by Peter Hall

The cast featured Brenda Blethyn as 'Mrs Warren', Rebecca Hall as 'Vivie Warren', Richard Johnson as 'Sir George Crofts', James Saxon as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Laurence Fox as 'Frank Gardner', and Peter Blythe as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Peter Hall, with designs by John Gunter, and lighting by Hartley T A Kemp.

Brenda Blethyn makes a hugely welcome return to the West End stage to play the title role in the centennial production of Bernard Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession, directed by Sir Peter Hall. Brenda Blethyn has immense theatre experience, but is perhaps best known for her award winning film work including Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies, the hilarious British comedy Saving Grace and most recently the US hit Lovely and Amazing.

"This is that rare thing, a drama by Shaw that is full of genuine human feeling, as well as indignation and a mischievous wit... Peter Hall's revival is full of crackling dramatic energy and fine performances, marred only by singularly dull sets by John Gunter and ridiculously clumsy scene changes. Where it matters though, the production is spot on, especially in the terrific double act between Brenda Blethyn in the title role and Rebecca Hall as Vivie... It would be easy to make Vivie seem a horribly cold prig, but Rebecca Hall somehow avoids it. There is a warmth, sensuality, and emotional vulnerability about her performance that is fascinatingly at odds with her character's stated pragmatism... Blethyn is in fine form too, appearing cosy at first, then manipulatively sentimental, before finally revealing a heart that turns to flint when it has been broken. Her accent reverts to the gutter whenever she is moved or angry." The Daily Telegraph

"Sir Peter Hall's production is one of his best, beautifully designed by John Gunter with photographic images of lush Sussex countryside and furniture 1it like art in a gallery. The real new take on Shaw is provided by the brilliant Brenda Blethyn, occupying the role of Mrs Warren with a working class fervour that... is a whirlwind vulgarian from start to finish. She rolls on rather llke Marie Lloyd would have done... and her great speech about her background and hard times is paradoxically more forceful as a result: we are longing to know the exact social provenance of this extraordinary creature. Crofts is definitively played by Richard Johnson in tweedy jacket and MCC tie. And two debuts announce new talents: Laurence Fox (son of James) as a perfect, gangly silly ass, and Rebecca Hall (daughter of Sir Peter) as a spirited Vivie Warren, making a hard-nosed, moral choice at the cost of losing the mother she loves." The Daily Mail

"This wonderful deconstruction of the hypocrisy hovering behind high society at the turn of the century was immediately banned. It remained outlawed until 1925. In the year 2002 it was amusing to watch the characters dancing around the play's central topic. Peter Hall's direction is very traditional and you would imagine that this is how George Bernard Shaw would want his play to look. And I can't imagine that the great man would have had the slightest complaint about any of the actors who brought his work to a 21st century audience in the West End last night. As the duplicitous old madam Mrs Warren, Brenda Blethyn, showed why she is one of our finest performers. Her clashes with daughter Vivie - excellently played by Rebecca Hall - were electric... This is good old fashioned theatre. No tricks, nothing flashy - just a first class play with top notch performances." The Daily Mirror

Mrs Warren's Profession in London at the Strand Theatre previewed from 2 October 2002, opened on 10 October 2002, and closed on 18 January 2003.


2010: 2nd West End London Revival with Felicity Kendal

Previewed 16 March 2010, Opened 25 March 2010, Closed 19 June 2010 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)

A major revival of George Bernard Shaw's play Mrs Warren's Profession in London starring Felicity Kendal

The cast featured Felicity Kendal as 'Mrs Warren', Lucy Briggs-Owen as 'Vivie', David Yelland as 'Sir George Crofts', Eric Carte as 'Reverend Samuel Gardner', Max Bennett as 'Frank Gardner', and Mark Tandy as 'Mr Praed'.

Directed by Michael Rudman, with designs by Paul Farnsworth, lighting by David Howe, and sound by Jason Barnes.

David Yelland's London theatre credits include 'Ralph Nickleby' in Jonathan Church and Philip Franks' revival of David Edgar's adaptation of Charles Dicken's Nicholas Nickleby at the Gielgud Theatre in 2007; 'Sven Johnson' in Maria Aitken's revival of Terence Rattigan's Man and Boy at the Duchess Theatre in 2005; 'Hubert' in Jennie Darnell's revival of Yasmina Reza's Life x 3 at the Savoy Theatre in 2002; 'Lord Windermere' in Peter Hall's revival of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan at the Haymarket Theatre in 2002; 'Charles Minto' in Anthony Page's production of God Only Knows at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2001; 'Philinte' in Peter Hall's revival of Moliere's The Misanthrope at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1998; 'Dorn' in Peter Hall's revival of Anton Chekhov's Seagull at the Old Vic Theatre in 1997; 'Sir Robert Chiltern' in Peter Hall's revival of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband at the Globe Theatre in 1992, and Haymarket Theatre in 1996; and 'Freddie Page' in Alan Strachan's revival of Terrence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea at the Haymarket Theatre in 1988.

Eric Carte's London theatre credits include 'Mortimer Durham' in Edward Hall's revival of William Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife at the Apollo Theatre in 2002; and 'Willy Banbury' in Michael Rudman's revival of Noel Coward's Fallen Angels at the Apollo Theatre in 2000.

This touring production originated at the Bath Theatre Royal - from 20 to 31 October 2009 - with the same cast.

"In Michael Rudman's excellent revival, Felicity Kendal's Kitty Warren sweeps on to the stage, svelte and elegant in scarlet brocade, little lace gloves, her hat aflutter. She radiates confidence, affluence and good taste. But it was not always thus. Once dirt-poor, she was a 19th Century Belle de Jour who dragged herself up by her suspenders, became a madam and set up a chain of highclass brothels in partnership with former client Sir George Crofts (David Yelland, super-smooth and chillingly calculating). It paid dividends for this single mother: an entree into upper middle-class respectability and her daughter Vivie's expensive education. Not that Vivie has ever suspected what Mama's work involved... Far from being grateful, Vivie seizes the moral high ground and condemns and shuns her mother... Needless to say, in this fiercely feminist play all the men are feckless and vice and even incest is acceptable if the price is right. Perfectly shocking." The Mail on Sunday

"The play remains a pertinent attack on the moral hypocrisy of the ruling classes. Still, director Michael Rudman does his best to make this once scandalous drama feel as creaky as possible. Lucy Briggs-Owen puts in a crystal-clear perfonnance as the visionary, resolute Vivie, in her own way as socially-unorthodox as her mother, while David Yelland is superbly odious as Mrs Warren's business partner Crofts. Yet for all her exquisitely dilapidated air, a melodramatic Felicity Kendal never pierces the contradictory heart of Mrs Warren, once a victim of circumstance but now an unapologetic exploiter of other women's misfortune... The play's many fascinating exchanges never quite take flight, perhaps stymied by Paul Farnsworth's ghastly, throwback set and by the production's stuffy, mothballing atmosphere, which seems to speak more to the Victorian era than our own." The London Metro

"It's good to see the great actress Felicity Kendal very much in evidence in Bernard Shaw's old potboiler. Mrs Warren's 'profession' is a lot less shocking now than when the old boy wrote it in 1893, but somehow, as the story goes about its antiquated, comfy, and ever so slightly somnolent way, Miss Kendal invests it with moments of real pathos. Michael Rudman's direction is, however, reverential to the point of being sluggish and I was irked, too, by some very long set changes which, given Paul Farnsworth's boring design, scarcely seemed worth the trouble. As for the supporting players, Lucy Briggs-Owen is a particular disappointment as Mrs Warren's daughter. In the final moments, she had the punters laughing at lines that ought to have had them crying." The Sunday Telegraph

Mrs Warren's Profession in London at the Comedy Theatre previewed from 16 March 2010, opened on 25 March 2010, and closed on 19 June 2010.