The Shaw Society are proud to sponsor an exciting new production of…

Mrs Warren's Profession

…from award-winning theatre company SHAW2020

Mrs Warren’s Profession is a provocative play written by the renowned Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Premiered in 1893 but banned for its controversial subject matter, the play explores societal norms and challenges the prevailing moral attitudes of its time. The play delves into the complex relationship between a mother, Mrs. Kitty Warren, and her daughter, Vivie, as they grapple with issues of morality, social expectations, and the economic constraints faced by women in the Victorian era. Shaw’s sharp, witty observations and biting, social commentary make Mrs Warren’s Profession a thought-provoking classic that is decades ahead of its time.

  • Tuesday 16th – Saturday 20th July, 7.30pm – Jack Studio TheatreTICKETS
  • Friday 26th July, 6.30pm – Shaw’s Corner, National TrustTICKETS
  • Saturday 27th, 6.30pm – Shaw’s Corner, National TrustTICKETS
  • Sunday 28th, 2.30pm – Campus West TheatreTICKETS
  • Wednesday 7th – Friday 9th August – Theatre at the TabardTICKETS

Award-winning theatre company SHAW2020 explore the theatre and writings of Bernard Shaw, bringing his works, together with those of his contemporaries and those he influenced to a wider, more diverse audience.

SHAW2020, winners of a London Pub Theatres ‘Standing Ovation’ award in 2021 and ‘Best Show’ at the Birmingham Fringe Festival in 2022 for their production of Shaw’s Village Wooing, have updated the timeline of Mrs Warren’s Profession, delivering a fresh perspective to Shaw’s classic work by bringing the action forward slightly to the 1930s. An era where women continued to struggle against a patriarchal, capitalist society, offset by a sense of twentieth-century empowerment on the horizon.

This production is sponsored by the Shaw Society, a charitable organisation dedicated to promoting the legacy and appreciation of George Bernard Shaw’s contributions to literature and theatre. The collaboration between SHAW2020 and the Shaw Society underscores their commitment to keeping Shaw’s legacy alive and engaging modern audiences with the enduring themes embedded in his work.


“It’s wonderful to see Shaw’s plays being kept alive, and to such a high standard by SHAW2020. Long may they continue.”

Dame Judi Dench, Honorary Vice-President of The Shaw Society


Past reviews for SHAW2020-

“It’s exciting that a fresh, young and vibrant theatre company like SHAW2020 are bringing us Shaw’s plays in new and creative ways.” The Reviews Hub 2019

“Powerfully evokes a sense of the era” London Pub Theatres Magazine 2021

“The direction is spot-on, producing a broad comedy with an underlying thread of vulnerability and truth.” North West End UK 2021

“SHAW2020’s take on the text emphasises the modernity of this play… while still feeling true to its 1933 setting” Cambridge Edition 2022

“A touch of class…featuring winning performances” The Reviews Hub 2022

On Bernard Shaw’s death in 1950 his home of over forty years, Shaw’s Corner in the Hertfordshire village of Ayot St Lawrence, passed to the National Trust, who later opened the house to the public. It was the Shaw Society, founded in 1941 rather against Shaw’s wishes, that caused his plays to be remembered at the house. The Society organised rambles to Ayot St Lawrence, and from 1952 onwards instituted an annual pilgrimage from London, to celebrate Shaw’s birthday on 26th July with readings from his works.

In 1958 Ellen Pollock, a great Shavian comic actress, became President of the Society, and developed the readings further, to include extracts from plays, and also the many letters she had received from Shaw. These presentations further evolved in the 1960s to productions of scenes and eventually of whole plays.

Members of the Shaw Society would arrive in a coach from London armed with picnics, and a sort of impromptu ‘open-air Shaw theatre’ emerged. Shaw’s large garden provided a splendid natural setting. Some members were actors, directors or producers, or otherwise connected with the theatre; and so there came into being a tradition of throngs of summer picnickers watching, creating and enjoying delightful Shaw productions.

Some have said that the acoustics at Shaw’s Corner are surprisingly good, better than some West End theatres. As for the minimalist staging, the acting area eventually moved from the lawns or under the trees to the gravel terrace outside the house, thus giving a natural ‘set’ backdrop with multiple exits, as well as enhancing the sound. Audiences also find sufficient staging cues embedded in the dialogue, so that, for example, when Raina’s bedroom candle repeatedly blows out in Arms and the Man, audiences relish imagining it from the spoken cues.

One hazard of any open-air theatre, of course, is unpredictable weather, and – although generally blessed with sunny July evenings – this theatre has endured its share.  There are reports of the actors and the audience almost disappearing from each other’s view due to pouring rain, of actresses’ Victorian/Edwardian dresses subjected to “rising damp” from the ground up, and of actors sliding down into picnics. In one 1965 performance, Ellen Pollock’s production of Too True to be Good with Studio 68 was beset by a downpour, and cast and audience beat a retreat to the village hall, only to find that the four hundred or so people had no chance of all fitting in, so they trooped back and raised umbrellas to resume the performance on the lawns. 

The audiences reportedly love all but the soaking and they can usually be counted on for appropriate responses to timely dialogue, as when in the 2008 Millionairess, in the midst of a global financial crisis, lines like “never put your money in a bank” brought great rounds of deeply felt applause.  Such interactive art seems to more than make up for the occasional rainy day.

Ellen Pollock continued to perform at Ayot St Lawrence for many years. In 1969 she appeared in Mrs Warren’s Profession, and was still performing at Shaw’s Corner in the 1980s when she herself was an octogenarian. Some of her presentations were at the Palladian Church, both inside the church itself, and on occasion outside, as when she read out Shaw’s letters to audiences sitting among the gravestones in the churchyard. One memorable performance at Shaw’s Corner was when she presented the Pygmalion tea party scene playing all the parts herself: she was famous for having played Eliza Doolittle in her youth and later Mrs Higgins to Diana Rigg’s Eliza. Ellen subsequently joined forces with famous actress Toni Kanal and her husband Benny Green, musician, writer and broadcaster to present many very varied programmes.

The National Trust eventually took over from the Shaw Society in organising the birthday celebrations and presenting the professional productions. In 1992 Toni Kanal formed an acting company called “Ayot Productions,” and was joined by renowned Shaw director Richard Digby Day who came from many years as director of the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, London, and thus was well prepared for most of the difficulties at the open air theatre at “Shaw’s Corner.” From 1993, Michael Friend Productions presented a mid-June play, which became known as “The Summer Play,” while Ayot Productions presented “The Birthday Play” in late July for The Shaw Society.  When, in 2004, Ayot Productions decided not to continue with the July play, the late Michael Friend was asked by the National Trust to do both the June and the July play.   

Since then Michael Friend Productions provided at least one, if not both, of the two annual plays at Shaw’s Corner, with touring productions at other times and other venues as well. Combined with its antecedent presentations and companies, Michael Friend Productions has played a significant part in maintaining Shaw’s dramatic presence in the modern world, and deserves to be better known and preserved as both a record of the times and as an element in the history of the theatre. Indeed Michael Friend himself deserves acknowledgment for his considerable accomplishments, although, as he acknowledged, he stood on the shoulders of his precursors who established and have continued this great tradition of Shaw performance for more than half a century.

Enter SHAW2020, a theatre company formed in 2018 comprised of actor-members from The Shaw Society (history repeating itself). SHAW2020 is dedicated to promoting, adapting and exploring the works of Shaw and bringing them to wider and more diverse audiences. Many of its actors have performed at Shaw’s Corner and then SHAW2020 joined forces with Michael Friend Productions to keep Shavian performance in Ayot St Lawrence, since the National Trust’s decision to rest the annual plays for 2019. Later that year the Palladian Church in Ayot St Lawrence, where Shaw sometimes played the organ, hosted performances of Arms and The Man, SHAW2020 also produced Village Wooing there in 2021.

(Bethany Blake and Jonas Cemm pictured in MFP’s 2017 production of Too True To Be Good)

Joining this unique history of performance, DOT productions produced Pygmalion at Shaw’s Corner in 2022. Now SHAW2020 have been invited back to Ayot in 2024 to present Mrs Warren’s Profession. It’s wonderful that Shaw’s home is once again a thriving open air theatre showcasing Bernard Shaw’s genius. The Shaw Society is delighted to play its part in keeping the tradition of performance at Shaw’s Corner alive and are proud to sponsor this production of Mrs Warren’s Profession.


Edited Dr Anne Wright CBE,
academic advisor to the Shaw Society, Ivan Wise, Editor of the Shavian and Jonas Cemm, Artistic Director of SHAW2020, from an article by R. F. Dietrich, Founding President of the International Shaw Society