Fresh off the record-breaking success of Mamma Mia!, Chemainus Theatre Festival kept the energy high in their production of Mrs. Warren’s Profession.
The play, written in 1893 by British playwright, George Bernard Shaw, follows the story of Mrs. Warren, a madam running a flourishing business in the world’s oldest profession. Mrs. Warren uses the proceeds from her business to fund her daughter Vivie’s education at the finest schools in England. When Vivie founds out about her mother’s profession, and the circumstances which brought it about, there is a clash of ideals, morals, expectations, and realities.
“If you like to challenge your own ideas, and society’s ideas of morality then come out and have a look at the show to see if you can decipher for yourself what’s right and wrong in the context of this show,” Julien Galipeau, who plays Frank Gardener said.
Director Heather Cant considered setting the play in 2019, as many of the themes in Mrs. Warren’s Profession are still relevant in the context of the #MeToo movement. Ultimately, Cant wanted to preserve the rich language of the play, and decided on 1927. She made this choice because 1927 was a year of great change for women in Britain, it was the year before women had electoral equality with men in the country.
“When Shaw wrote it in 1893, he was trying to highlight the hypocrisy he felt society had around its treatment of women, its ideas around capitalism, and it’s rootedness in a patriarchal system that benefited some citizens over others, and his disbelief of that,” Cant said. “It was apparent to me that the themes he was talking about then… are exactly the ideas we’re talking about in 2019.”
While the themes in Mrs. Warren’s Profession are serious, the play is loaded with wit and comedy that will keep audiences on their toes.
Martha Ansfield-Scrase was a standout star in her performance as the “proper lady” Vivie Warren. Erin Ormond captured the essence of Mrs. Warren brilliantly in her portrayal of the character — a stunning feat considering she prepared for the character while performing in Mamma Mia!. Stephen Aberle stole the show with his comedic portrayal of the hypocritical Reverend Samuel Gardener. Julien Galipeau charmed characters and the audience alike as Frank Gardener. Declan O’Reilly was delightfully grotesque as upper class businessman, Sir George Crofts. And Tariq Leslie embodied moral goodness, art, and beauty, as Mrs. Warren’s friend, Mr. Praed. The cast received a standing ovation for their opening night performance.
As of September 13, the show run for Mrs. Warren’s Profession was 75 percent sold out. It runs until Oct. 5. Check the theatre’s web site for ticket information.