For well-educated, well-behaved and well-mannered Vivie Warren the discovery that her often absent mother is, not only a prostitute, but a madame in brothels across the known world is shocking and abhorrent, yet this is a tale much more ambiguous than the one-sided social critique it may first appear to be.
Bianca Leggett vascillates between anger and exuberance, vulnerability and sensuality, as the effervescent Mrs. Warren balanced by the compellingly deadpan Emma Milne as her daughter Vivie. The interactions between these central characters create the tension which holds the play together: two particularly intimate scenes drive the audience to understand how two similar women can survive by taking such different paths through a world where money speaks volumes. Charlie Eccleshare’s Frank Gardner is money-minded but tender; the performance creates a greater likeability to the character than the script may suggest, especially when events come to a head in the final act.
Within the confines of time and money restrictions, the production has done what it can towards 19th-century grandeur with successful costuming, and a suggestion of the Victorian world in which the action is played out. The play is both simplistic and dramatic; while some characters are no doubt caricatured, some compelling performances make this in all an emotive piece.