a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Just can’t get Sally Hawkins off my mind…And it’s because MAYBE I might be able to interview her, FINALLY, if she’s up to it, with a grueling Broadway schedule, in a demanding role, where she is almost always on stage. It MIGHT happen somewhere around the 15th…Stay tuned.

I LOVED “Mrs. Warren’s Profession”, so much I really do want to see it again. Don’t know if I will make it…but in line with that I urge I just have to share how difficult it’s been to get my hands on that play. It’s George Bernard Shaw, for cripes sake! You’d think it would be available everywhere! But it isn’t! I searched throughout the whole New York Library System, as well as the Strand bookstore, for weeks!Nobody had it! This went on for over a month! MAYbe because the play is such a success that every copy has been flown off every shelf! Mrs. Kitty Warren and her story is STILL hot stuff!

FINALLY! D’oh! I asked the press agent for it and got emailed a copy almost immediately!

I know this sounds incredibly retro, but I didn’t know you could email whole scripts on the Internet! But you can. I got it. And I read it. Spellbound, as I was by the production of “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” on Broadway itself.

I think it’s Shaw’s best play that I never read. And when I was a young aspiring actor, I read everything I could get my hands on about Shaw, by Shaw, but I evidently missed this one, which turns out to be his greatest ever, because it is so unexpected, so, yes, well, shocking.

When I saw it, it hit me like a mack truck,as if it were a brand-new Broadway play, and also because it was so well performed, well directed and superbly acted by the great Cherry Jones at her absolute peak as the scandalous Mrs.Kitty Warren herself.

I saw “Doubt” on Broadway with Cherry as the scary sister Aloyisus(spelling?) and I was there backstage, at both the Drama Desks and the Tonys, when she won. And she looked so beautiful, she was vibrating with the Tony in her hands that night, in a shimmering brown,low-cut silk dress covered with bugle beads! Gorgeous! Elegant! Glamourous!  Unforgettable! She was beside herself with happiness.

And I THINK she said to me that night re: this award she was clutching, her second Tony, (the first was for “The Heiress”)”I want another!” Did she REALLY say that or was I just dreaming? In the Rainbow Room, high above the twinkling city below, she was radiating joy. But still thinking of her future. Like “What do I do to top THIS?”

Well, with “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” she very well may have done it again. She’ll be nominated for EVERYTHING!

And she was very sexy in her Tony gown. Quite a shock from the dour nun she was playing in “Doubt.” And the frigid spinster in “The Heiress”. An d I thought “She really can be quite a stunner  and nobody’s ever let her use that side of her talent.”

Well, in “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” she gets to go to town -in spades- as the successful prostitute and madam, yes, that IS Mrs. Warren’s profession. And she seems to be enjoying herself a hundred-fold. Cherry Jones is having the time of her life, reveling in being a full blown, sensual, sexual woman, who enjoys her life, making a living in bed, and well, it’s still shocking.

Because in the play Shaw is advocating that Mrs. Warren has every right to make a living that way. And as Kitty Warren so forcefully, righteously states that was the only route to success and wealth that a woman from a poor background had at that time(c.1894).

And her Oxbridge educated daughter, Vivvie, who Sally Hawkins plays, does not know what her mother does for a living, and why she’s been afforded such a cushy life. She has not met her mother – much- being educated in boarding schools all her life, that her mother has been paying for by prostituting herself abroad, on the Continent…At a very high level. She’s become a very successful business woman from it, too. Kitty Warren is rich.

She runs “hotels” as she puts it, all over Europe…And she reveals this to Vivvie, in an unforgettable, gripping, dramatic scene  on the night of her first visit to her grown daughter, who is so unlike her, it’s like chalk and cheese, as the British say.

Cherry Jones has red hair piled miles high and a GIGANTIC hat and is all curves and sensuality and Sally Hawkins is diminutive, skinny, and all lines and angles, perfectly contrasting her shockingly her shimmeringly glamourous moll of a mother.

Of course, things don’t go well, and the last scene(I didn’t know what was coming. I’d neither read nor seen it before) just ripped my heart out.

And it’s all there on the page. Vivvie is Shaw’s new woman personified. And the clash of these two great female characters, a mother and daughter woefully at odds, form the core of the best play he ever wrote I feel.

The two women’s parts are so vibrant and their dynamic so original and shattering, I think writing about women, with the men merely supporting figures, freed him in a way that I don’t think any other of his plays really did.

And Women’s Rights, which is what he was really advocating here, in this mid-Victorian context, continues to shock.  And director Doug Hughes, who guided Cherry to her last Tony win as the director of “Doubt” has done it again, but this time with Shaw’s witty, dramatic play, making it fresh as a daisy, and as compelling as a train wreck. A mother-daughter train wreck.

And our gal Sal is sporting a VERY posh accent here, and is totally unlike the rabel-rousing housewife in “Made in Dagenham.” But she’s just as political.

When her Vivvie takes up a pen at the very last moment of the play, it’s just as shocking as Hedda Gabler’s shooting herself at the end of that play of the same name. Ibsen and Shaw merged for me that night that I saw “Mrs. Warren Profession.” And I hope you get to see it, too. It’s running for the rest of November then that’s it! It’s not being extended!

Comments on: "Sally Hawkins continues…to fascinate.As does Cherry Jones in “Mrs. Warren’s Profession”.." (3)

  1. Very thoughtful review. I saw the play in mid-September, while it was still in rehearsal, because I’m such a Sally Hawkins fan; I think she is a brilliant film actor. I have to say, I was disappointed by what I saw; it felt overdone and oddly screechy. Hawkins’ brilliance of conveying so much depth with a flicker of an eye, didn’t seem to translate well to the stage, where she was working hard to reach the back of the house. Despite her best efforts, I left….just left. I wasn’t moved at all, despite the fact that I love the argument Shaw was making; I totally got the intellectual side of it.

    Maybe I should see it again, because I think Sally Hawkins is the new Meryl Streep; I can’t tell you how much I appreciate her other work.

    Anyway, thanks for your deconstruction of the play, and I look forward to your interview with Sally. (PS the night I went, when the curtain opens on her, clearly few in the audience knew who she was; no one clapped. Then Cherry Jones walks on to great applause. Jones did awfully well in that role, but then Hawkins had a tougher role to play, I thought)

    • Dear Karla,

      Yikes! That’s a very strong, passionate response to Sally’s performance. And your points are well taken. I THINK Sally was having vocal problems, too, the night I saw it right after it opened or thereabouts. She seemed to be projecting from her throat, not her diaphragm, as one should on the stage and as Cherry Jones, and the rest of the cast were doing. An extremely upper crust Oxbridge accent seemed alien to her. Although Sally herself is thoroughly British and grew up in Blackheath which is a very nice suburb of London, and not at all like the East End gal she portrays in “Made in Dagenham” which is very, very good.

      Given that I do agree with your comments, nevertheless, I was deeply moved by Sally’s Vivvie. The ending was totally unexpected by me. It was shattering. That mother/daughter relationship was very powerfully THERE between the two women and Vivvie is struggling all through the play to come to terms with everything and the kitchen sink that is being thrown at her.

      And Sally’s wraith-like figure served as perfect contrast to Cherry’s curves. I never thought I’d ever use the word “curvaceous” to descibe Cherry Jones, but I just did!

      • Also, I wanted to tell you that in addition to really enjoying your comment, and your feeling for Sally(It’s mutual) I just discovered a great(and maybe the only)Sally website. It’s http://www.sally-hawkins.com

        It’s based in England and full of interviews and information. It’s as charming as she is.

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