The play was originally banned by the Lord Chamberlain (Britain's official theatre censor) because of its frank discussion of prostitution, but was finally performed on Sunday, 5 January 1902, at London's New Lyric Club with the distinguished actor-manager Harley Granville-Barker as Frank, Fanny Brough as Mrs. Warren, George Goodhart as Sir George Crofts, Julius Knight as Praed, Madge McIntosh as Vivie and Cosmo Stuart as Rev. Samuel Gardner. Members-only clubs had been a device to avoid the eye of authority, but actors often also used the opportunity to invite their fellow-artists to a private showing of a play, usually on Sundays, when theatres were closed to the public. The first public performance in London took place in 1925.
A 1905 performance in New York, this time on a public stage, was interrupted by the police, who arrested the cast and crew for violating New York City's version of the Comstock laws. It was later held not to be in violation of the law, and has been revived on Broadway five times since. It was recently performed by the Sydney Theatre Company in 2012, and was so popular that the season was extended.