Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
Mrs. Warren’s Profession written in 1898 by George Bernard Shaw, was chosen as the performance piece. The scenes performed were chosen from Act 3 and 4. In the first extract, Vivie, the female protagonist of the play interacts with Crofts (an older man played by myself) who attempts to convince Vivie to become his wife. In the second extract, Vivie comes to the realisation that her mother, Mrs Warren, had been lying about her profession. These scenes were chosen as there were opportunities for dramatization to showcase the themes of the play. Furthermore, these scenes were vital to plot and character development as they showed how Vivie’s attitude towards Crofts and her mother changed throughout the play. The realisation of dramatic potential conveyed the themes of secrets and revelations, morality and the commodification of love. These overarching themes are linked by the fact that the revelation of secrets challenges Vivie’s perspective towards morality.
Crofts professes his love for Vivie only to reveal the secret source of his wealth and his liberality towards her. Personally, I found the character of Crofts to be the most interesting as there was much dramatic potential in his conceited attitudes towards love while pursuing Vivie’s hand. In the first scene, Crofts uses his financial stability as means of leverage against a much younger and charismatic Frank, who is also trying for Vive’s hand in marriage. Crofts is portrayed as a proud man who having gained riches through shady means, then proceeds to commoditise his love. His morality stems from the belief that wealth can be used as judgement for one’s character which was typical of the then societal norms. Well, what’s he to do? No profession. No property. What’s he good for? This line spoken by Crofts shows how he tries to belittle Frank’s worth to make himself seem like a more viable option as Vivie’s partner. I employed an arrogant tone to convey his contemptuous attitude towards Frank and to show his inflated sense of self, derived from his elevated social standing. I also maintained a solemn face and business-like take to this conversation, to further compound Crofts’ sense of superiority. By this, the audience are made aware that the notions of relationships held by Crofts are merely transactional. Vivie then responds to this with a sarcastic remark. A power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness? The importance of this line is highlighted when Crofts’ does not sense the sarcasm in the question.
There is underlying tension in this scene as the missed opportunity for Crofts to view the comment as an insult would cause Vivie to further pour scorn on the shallowness of his nature. The sarcastic tone delivered by Vivie helps to further bring out the uncomfortable tension between the two characters. The inability of Crofts to perceive that Vivie despises his methods of courting also show the nullified relationship Crofts has with love. The dramatic potential of the lines is realised by a self-righteous attitude I adopted towards Vivie to bring out the immorality of Crofts. As the plot develops, Crofts reveals to Vivie that he has been secretly running a brothel with her mother and tells her to keep this secret to herself. By the way, you’ll keep it to yourself, won’t you? Since it’s been a secret so long, it had better remain so. The phrase “it had better remain so” is tinged with menace to show Crofts’ commanding, almost bullish attitudes. The fact that Crofts is unperturbed with the prospect of running a brothel for money infuriates Vivie which creates the opportunity for dramatic tension to be realised. The heightened tension between Vivie and Crofts conveys the sexist and prejudiced attitudes of men towards women during this period in time whereby Crofts expects Vivie to be subservient in light of his wealth and higher social status. To realise the dramatic potential of this notion, I encroach closer towards Vivie and assume a threatening tone designed to intimidate her. I step across the table to visually invade her personal space and to dominate by the firmness of my voice, both elements augment my stage presence further. I then continue by emphatically stating that I would rather win her by honest affection and the monetary help I provided. This further brings out Crofts skewed sense of morality and his enlarged sense of self-importance. I’d rather win you by honest affection. I was a good friend to your mother: ask her whether I wasn’t. She’d never have make the money that paid for your education if it hadn’t been for my advice and help, not to mention the money I advanced her. I put not less than forty thousand pounds into it, from first to last. The polished front he tries to put forth to Vivie is yet tarnished again when he references how much money he invested into her mother and the business. His focus on the money that he put into the relationship and again trivializes the idea of love to something that should be returned to him by Vivie. To realise the dramatic potential of the lines, I used an earnest tone whilst speaking to Vivie, even straining my voice at the lines “I’d rather win you by honest affection.” This was done to emphasize his innate self-righteousness and his transactional attitude towards relationships.
I never intended that. On my word as a gentleman I didn’t. When Vivie reveals to Crofts that she knows the business, Crofts’ response of indignation and sincerity cools and braces her. To realize the dramatic potential in the sudden change of emotion, I also changed the intonation and emotion in my voice to better show his earnestness, frustration and worry. I softened my tone and appeared more defensive to show a change in emotion and wider range of character. This subtle shift in attitude builds on the development of my portrayal of Crofts’ character to show the depth of conflict he felt, changing from an earlier over-confidence that he would win Vivie over. In summary, this scene clearly illustrates how the dramatic realization of Crofts’ attitudes towards relationships is used to portray his commodification of love. Therefore, the ability of the play to convey specific social prejudices and issues, such as the attitudes of men towards women or less wealthy men were fully realised. In the next scene, Mrs Warren and Vivie are already arguing about the morality of the business and Vivie brings up the notion of Crofts character in their argument. To tell you the truth, I rather admire him for being strong-minded enough to enjoy himself in his own way and make plenty of money instead of living the usual shooting, hunting, dining-out, tailoring, loafing life of his set merely because all the rest do it. It can be seen that even though Crofts harbours such sentiments, Vivie still respects the fact that he is unrelenting when it comes to what he believes in.
Despite her contempt for Crofts in the previous scene, she later praises his resolve. This reveals Vivie’s sense of pragmatism and audience members can then draw parallels between her and Crofts. Vivie’s admiration for Crofts after putting him down and accepting the truth of the origin of the money which provided for her education could induce audience members to consider the duplicity of Vivie’ morality. To clearly demonstrate the point above, it was imperative that I recited the following lines with full confidence. “But my code is a simple one, and, I think, a good one. Honor between man and man; fidelity between man and woman; and no can’t about this religion or that religion, but an honest belief that things are making for good on the whole.” I faced my body towards the audience whilst standing firm on the ground, almost as if I were giving a passionate speech. This increased the amount of stage presence I had and also cemented the conviction of Crofts’ ideals. This provided an important reference point for Vivie to reflect back on as the story progressed. Furthermore, not only did it highlight Crofts strong beliefs, the proper delivery of the lines also highlighted the apparent social issues present at the time. To realise the dramatic potential of the tension, we chose to have Crofts and Vivie engage in a game of chess as they spoke. The stage layout for the first scene can be seen below in Figure 1. As the characters exchanged lines, they also moved the chess pieces. The characters trying to outsmart one another through chess also lets the audience explicitly notice my efforts to manipulate Vivie.
The pace of the performance was also largely dictated by the chess game as there were certain parts where characters could mull over the best move to make, this would give rise to moments of suspense. Audience Figure 1: Stage layout for the first scene The table was slanted at an angle to position Crofts in such a way where he had more access to the space. It also acted as a divide between Crofts and Vivie, showing the emotional incompatibility of the two characters. However, when I crossed this divide, it would also show my attempts to assert dominance and thus, bring to light the prejudiced attitude he had towards women. This staging decision was made to provide me with more stage presence as compared to Vivie. This would then make Vivie seem more unassuming and vulnerable to Crofts’ manipulative nature. Her triumph against Crofts at the end would thus seem more impactful. This would better highlight the rebellious stance taken by Vivie against the conventional archetypes of females based on patriarchal views, by showing her win against Crofts in the chess game. Additionally, to focus the attention of the audience, all the lights were kept off except for the front two lights. For the second scene between Vivie and Mrs Warren, we chose to replicate elements of Vivie’s office. The layout can be seen below in Figure 2. Audience Figure 2: Stage layout for the second scene The box which was located down center was placed on top a table and filled with illegal money earned from the brothel. This was done to remind the audience of the tension the revelation of the secret caused. Vivie opens the box at the start of the scene by stating the lines below. Sir George Crofts has told me the whole business.
The action of Vivie opening the box full of money shows that Vivie still feels the impact of the previous incident and how the revelation of this secret gives her motivation to want to confront her mother. The action of Crofts hence comes one full circle and the dramatic potential is fully realised through the implementation of this element of set design. Costume wise, I chose to wear a pair of white paints and a buttoned black and white shirt, the style of the rest of the characters were rather modern as clothing from that era was hard to obtain. The modern clothing, we wore also allowed us better flexibility and manoeuvrability, which would allow the audience to easily identify the nuances in our body language. Therefore, Vivie’s body language would not be hidden by a thick dress. In conclusion, the performance went well and I felt that the depth of my character had been fully realised, hence bringing out the key ideas of the play. Despite numerous production setbacks such as a lack of a working sound system, I believe my group worked well together to overcome these challenges. The outcome was a fully realised play and a seamless combination and presentation of the main ideas in a refreshing and unique manner.