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Mrs Warren's Profession - Malvern Festival Theatre Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Sex, Lies & Television Stars In Tale Of Prostitution
This notorious play by George Bernard Shaw was originally banned in England due to its then-shocking drama surrounding the issue of prostitution.

Despite being the world's oldest profession, this story was deemed too frank and ground-breaking when written in 1894 - and for the next three decades. Even when finally performed in New York, the police stopped the play and arrested the cast.

Mrs Warren's Profession
Sue Holderness takes on the title role in George Bernard Shaw's notorious play


Audiences can now freely see Mrs Warren's Profession. More than a century later and the storyline of a young head-strong Cambridge graduate, who finds out her mother has financed her education and luxurious lifestyle from a career of prostitution, may hardly raise an eyebrow, but is just as riveting. It also is packed with Bernard Shaw's exquisite one-liners that have stood the test of time.

The plot grips the audience as it shows how the unwelcome discovery leads to a fall-out between family, friends and suitors as well as raising some poignant questions about hypocracy within society.

There is a cast of well known names in this fine, slick production created by Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre, which is being performed at Malvern Festival Theatre for a week until August 1.

Mrs Warren's Profession, Malvern Theatres, Everyman Theatre, UK Tour, Sue Holderness, Christopher Timothy and Emily Woodward
Prostitution is the theme of the George Bernard Shaw play


Leading the pack is Sue Holderness, famous for her role as Marlene in Only Fools & Horses, and it was nice to see her former colleague John Challis (Boycie from Only Fools) in the audience on the first night offering moral support.

Holderness is an apt choice to play the lead role as the lady of the night because there is more than a whiff of Marlene in this Mrs Warren, both having gained financial status despite common beginnings. The actress has the right balance of bravado and likeability to play such a strong character.

Joining her is Christopher Timothy, once of All Creatures Great And Small. He is cast against type as an odious elderly rich man wanting to get his hands on her naive daughter.

Mrs Warren's Profession, Malvern Theatres, Everyman Theatre, UK Tour, Sue Holderness, Christopher Timothy and Emily Woodward
Christopher Timothy is one of the big names from television in the production


However, it is Emily Woodward playing Vivie who stands out. She is exceptional in the role playing a feminist ahead of her time, who wants nothing more than to be left alone to smoke cigars and have a glass of whisky while reading a murder mystery novel - something that attracts gasps of dismay from her fly-by-night beau Frank.

It's a small cast but a strong one that gels well. Ryan Saunders, playing Frank, seems like a talented young name to look out for while Richard Derrington, as his reverend father, is an experienced slick operator whose voice you may be familiar with as Mark Hebden in The Archers.

Christopher Bowen, who has appeared in an endless list of television dramas from Big Deal to Lewis and Parade's End, is another strong link in the production as likeable chap Praed.

Mrs Warren's Profession
Sue Holderness plays a woman whose life revolved around sex and lies


Bernard Shaw was one of the great British writers of the 19th Century and similarly to his other great work Pygmalion, this story focusses on the plight of the lower echelons of society with dignity and humanity.

Malvern is the final leg of a brief tour for Mrs Warren's Profession and I'd recommend making the most of seeing it now that you can.

Rating: 8/10

Mrs Warren's Profession
Malvern Festival Theatre
July 28 - August 1, 2015
Tickets cost from 12.32 to 28 from the Malvern Theatres website.

Cast
Mrs Warren Sue Holderness
Sir George Crofts Christopher Timothy
Vivie Emily Woodward
Praed Christopher Bowen
Frank Gardner Ryan Saunders
Rev Samuel Gardner Richard Derrington
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Why? See a play that was once banned
When: Until Saturday August 1, 2015
Phone: 01684 892277
Where: Malvern Festival Theatre
Cost: 12.32 - 28
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