MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION: Sparks Inspired Discussions at Classic Theatre Festival

George Bernard Shaw’s legendary play about the gradual reveal of a family secret, the men who dance around its uncomfortable truths, and an epic mother-daughter showdown has sparked a good deal of introspection and discussion during the ongoing staging of Mrs. Warren’s Profession at the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth. The play, which runs until August 12 at 54 Beckwith Street East (at Harvey), is centred in the Victorian era, a time when women had no right to vote or own property, and their status was described by John Stuart Mill as akin to slavery. It is against this backdrop that characters who have made certain choices for survival are challenged to justify their positions. As the show progresses, Festival audiences have found themselves debating during intermission and after the final curtain exactly what they think about Mrs. Warren, her daughter Vivie, and the men who are part of their world. It’s exactly as Shaw would have liked it, given his penchant for a good debate and his interest in seeing changes to the vast social inequality that marked his age. Modern audiences arriving in Perth from as far away as Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto, as well as U.S. destinations, are engaging with the play not only as an entertainment – it is certainly a compelling show that mixes drama and comedy – but also as a mirror held up to 2018, when sexual inequality still exists both in Canada and around the globe. Indeed, a 2015 UN Human Rights report raised concerns about “the persisting inequalities between women and men” in Canada, including the “high level of the pay gap” and its disproportionate effect on low-income women, racialized women, and Indigenous women. Out of 34 countries in the OECD, Canada had the 7th highest gender wage gap in 2014. And while there certainly have been improvements since the Victoria era, in Canada, the average amount earned by full-time working women in Canada for every dollar earned by men is 74 cents. Based on a wage gap of 31.5% in Ontario, it currently takes women an additional 14 years to earn the same pay collected by men by age 65. The Canadian Women’s Foundation notes that 80% of all lone-parent families are headed by women, while women who leave an abusive partner to raise children on their own are more than five times likely to live in poverty. “It’s against this backdrop that we can create a lens through which we view Mrs. Warren’s Profession and ask ourselves: is it her choice that we condemn, or is it the society that limits her choices to begin with that needs a closer examination,” says Matthew Behrens, the Classic Theatre Festival Associate Producer who discusses these issues during daily pre-show talks a half hour before the show. “We are witnessing very spirited discussions, and people also leave the theatre with a sense of having taken a remarkable journey, which is another part of the theatrical experience,” he says. Mrs. Warren’s Profession plays… Continue reading

FAR FROM HOME: Brings 40’s-style Dancing in the Streets to Perth

It’s not every day that the streets of Perth turn into a scene from a classic musical like Singing in the Rain or On the Town, but that’s exactly what happens this summer every Thursday and Friday from 7 to 8 pm with the Classic Theatre Festival production of Far From Home. Passersby and drivers alike have done double takes as they see individuals wearing 1940s costumes singing and dancing their way down Gore Street. Far From Home is set in 1945 as the war winds down and people try to adjust to the major changes they experience in civilian life. This music-filled tribute to the war brides who arrived in Perth after the Second World War is a family-friendly show that enlivens the sidewalks and alleyways next to Perth’s award-winning architectural facades. Indeed, they turn loading docks and assorted alleyways and courtyards into impromptu stages for dance numbers like Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning, a comic song that many a soldier applauded when thinking of the dreaded early bugle calls in the armed services. The show’s characters also illustrate the uninhibited joy that often marked homecomings from the war (and which was celebrated in many movies of the era too). Indeed, people were ready to party after five years of food rations, air raid sirens, and long waits for letters home that were often cut up by the military censors. Young people who had had to cut short their teenage years and assume adult responsibilities embraced one last opportunity to be kids again, and that exuberance comes through in Far From Home. The show will appeal especially to fans of swing music and dancing, with songs like I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo, In the Mood, For Me and My Gal, and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me) given vivacious renditions by the talented troupe that also performs the morning walking play, The Prisoner of Petawawa: Mallory Brumm, Katie Irvine, Connor Lyon, and Connor Williamson. The show was directed by Joanna McAuley Treffers. Playwright  Laurel Smith notes that war brides often found that their adjustment to new lives was not as easy as one would think, given that there were still significant cultural and linguistic differences between Britain and Canada. Those differences make for some very funny moments, while tender renditions of torch songs like White Cliffs of Dover bring to life the heartfelt emotion that made putting a nickle into the jukebox at the Perth Tea Rooms such a romantic moment. The Classic Theatre Festival is continuing to run on its mainstage the hit Shaw play, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, about the gradual reveal of a family secret, and is also planning the final mainstage show of the season, Angel Street (aka Gaslight), a riveting psychological thriller. Tickets to all Festival shows are available at or 1-877-283-1283. Continue reading