Dublin-born playwright, critic and political activist George Bernard Shaw wrote Mrs Warren’s Profession in 1893.
The play – running at the Theater Royal in Bath until Saturday – was immediately banned by the then Lord Chamberlain for the next 32 years for its “inappropriate” subject matter.
Although he received a private reading in 1902 which allowed Shaw to publish his play, stage productions were banned or closed.
London audiences had to wait until 1925 for the first public performance of the play, which deals with prostitution and women’s right to determine their own future, as well as potential incest.
Ms Warren’s Profession is about a former prostitute, now the owner of a chain of brothels in Brussels, Ostend, Vienna and Budapest, who tries to establish a relationship with her disapproving daughter.
Shaw makes the economic case for prostitution and creates a dialogue that positions women as a means of economic barter, both in marriage and in prostitution.
The moral argument around the world’s oldest profession plays out in the central relationship between Ms Warren, a self-made brothel house, and her Cambridge-educated daughter.
Here, the Theater Royal production draws its audience in with the two lead roles played by the real mother and her daughter, Caroline Quentin as Kitty Warren and Rose Quentin as Vivie.
In the play, the mother eclipses the daughter, mainly due to her greater life experience and upbringing in poverty.
Caroline Quentin produces a performance full of complexity as an emotionally manipulative and headstrong madam in search of her daughter to care for her in her old age.
She commands attention, while her daughter has a less interesting role to play trying to forge an independent future while fending off the attention of suitors young and old.
Simon Shepherd fulfills his role with aplomb as the old baronet, Sir George Crofts, who owns shares in Mrs. Warren’s brothels, while newcomer Peter Losasso shines as young and cash-strapped Frank Gardner.
These two are ably supported by Matthew Cottle as Frank’s father, Reverend Sam Gardner, and Stephen Rahman-Hughes as artist Praed.
The pace of the first act seemed slow, and production did not resume until the second act when Vivie finds out who her father is and decides to reject the two suitors’ overtures.
The final scene was disappointing, as Kitty and Vivie part ways. Somehow the final encounter between the two doesn’t produce the high emotional climax the play deserves.
. REVIEW THEATER Caroline Quentin plays alongside girl real