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May 2003
Review: Mrs Warren's Profession
Twiggy
Twiggy stars on stage in Oxford.

Sixties icon Twiggy makes her Oxford stage debut in a moralising tale about prostitution.

Our reviewer finds the play itself dated... but an interesting history lesson.

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Mrs Warren's Profession
May 6 - 10

Oxford Playhouse

By Mark Young

Under the watchful gaze of Sir Peter Hall, Sixties fashion icon Twiggy made her Oxford debut to the delight of a full house at the Playhouse.

Shaw wrote Mrs Warren's Profession in 1893, but it remained banned until 1925.

One has to ask why Sir Peter has chosen to dust the cobwebs of this dated play.

It remains a realistic attempt at tackling what was then the taboo subject of prostitution, but Sir Peter focuses more on the theme of a mother-and-daughter relationship.

The wit of this play is strangled by Shaw's laborious attempts to lecture us on morality, prejudice and the evils that surround wealth. The influence of Ibsen is clear but the humour of Wilde is absent.

The choice of Twiggy Lawson in the title role is perfect casting.

She draws inspiration from the cockney sparrow found in Lisa Doolitle and alternates it with a touch of Mrs Bridges of Upstairs Downstairs fame.

Twiggy's voice was a little shrill in the first half but by the second she was fully in control of the part, dominating the audience like a music hall duchess.

Here we have an icon who dominated a questionable profession, playing the role of one who also makes her money by means still not acceptable to all.

Despite being well supported by Hannah Yelland, who plays her daughter, and Benedick Blythe interpreting Mr Praed, this play is difficult for contemporary audiences to understand because the marginal characters are not connected to the whole picture in a consequential way.

This is certainly a run worth catching, to appreciate the importance of this challenge to censorship as Queen Victoria's reign came to an end.

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