Jennifer Ward-Lealand stars in the MiNDFOOD Season of Mrs Warren’s Profession, directed by award-winning director Eleanor Bishop.
The play updates George Bernard Shaw’s original 1893 story, which examined the relationship between a former prostitute-turned-brothel proprietor and her disapproving daughter. Set in contemporary Auckland, Bishop’s version follows driven Cambridge graduate Vivie as she comes to terms with the discovery that her mother has been a sex worker and now owns a brothel. Combining intelligent comedy with social commentary, the play examines existing taboos around brothel keeping in New Zealand, the treatment of sex workers and the world of women and work today.
Shaw’s play was originally banned by Britain’s official theatre censor, not just for its subject matter but for the perspective it took. Shaw openly critiqued the system that produced Mrs Warren, asserting that prostitution was a result of economic necessity and not moral failure. In doing so, he attacked the double standard of male privilege in the late 1800s. Bishop expands on the playwright’s message, exploring on a larger scale the role of women in the modern world of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the #MeToo movement.
Ward-Lealand says Bishop’s reinvention enhances the play’s relevance. “I like that it’s not a traditional telling,” she says.
In order to give sex workers a voice, Bishop cast writer, activist and stripper Hadassah Grace as Mrs Warren’s sister, Liz. “Sex work has been decriminalised in New Zealand since 2003, but we very rarely get to hear from sex workers themselves,” Bishop said in an ATC statement. Her version for the MiNDFOOD Season of Mrs Warren’s Profession begs the question: have perspectives around prostitution shifted at all over the years?
Visit www.atc.co.nz/auckland-theatre-company/2017-18/mrs-warrens-profession for more information and tickets.