Rose Bruford and the Institute of Mime

Among the papers left at the time of Miss Mawer’s death in 1962 there is an anonymous typescript which sounds as if it was written by Miss Mawer, or someone close to her. It is dated 1954 – which is just the moment when Irene Mawer moved to the Birmingham School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art, as their Senior Tutor and Lecturer, with Pamela Chapman. It reads:

“… Institute of Mime, of which the public examinations gave place to the LRAM (Mime)…”.

It was the words “gave place to the LRAM (Mime)” that puzzled me. The more I thought about it (and the more enquiries I made) the more I have come to believe that I have worked out a little bit about what became of the Institute of Mime.

The Institute of Mime was founded by Irene Mawer in 1933. It was still functioning in 1939. Apart from that, I know very little more about the dates of the Institute of Mime – that is, I don’t know why or when it closed.

What I do know is that one of the intentions of the Institute of Mime was to consolidate the standard of mime training. To this end, the Institute held a list of teachers so that anyone wishing to learn mime could find a qualified teacher (qualified in the Irene Mawer method of mime, as taught in the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama). The Institute of Mime also organised, nationally, the mime exams, both for teachers and for performers. So anyone wanting to learn mime could take lessons from a qualified teacher who belonged to the Institute of Mime and then take exams at local examination centres outside of London.

What happened after 1939? I don’t know. But at some point after 1939 the Institute of Mime folded and closed down. Irene Mawer was only 46 years old in 1939, and still very much teaching and lecturing. Of course, World War 2 began in 1939, ending in 1945. Perhaps this sounded the death knell of the Institute of Mime? During WW2, the Ginner-Mawer School evacuated to Boscastle, in Cornwall. Perhaps with Irene Mawer being in such a rural, out-of-the-way location this also added to the demise of the Institute of Mime?

Given that the anonymous article quoted at the top of this blog post was written in 1954 (the year that the Ginner-Mawer School closed its doors forever), I would say that there is a fair chance that the Institute of Mime gave up the ghost due to, and during, World War 2.

In an effort to unravel the mystery of the quote about the public mime examinations of the Institute of Mime ‘giving place’ to the mime examinations of the Royal Academy of Music (RAM), I have contacted the Royal Academy of Music to see if LRAM (Mime) refers to them. Archivist Adam Taylor has been extremely helpful, though research is hampered by Covid-19 plus many documents are still waiting to be scanned into the on-line archive.

It is confirmed that LRAM (Mime) was a qualification awarded by the Royal Academy of Music, and could be either the Teachers certificate or the Performers certificate. Nowadays, only students at the Royal Academy of Music can attain this qualification, whereas in the past, it was also open to non-RAM students, and they were able to take the examination at various external locations around the country (in the same way that students could have taken the Institute of Mime examinations at external locations around the country).

I think, therefore, that the quote “… Institute of Mime, of which the public examinations gave place to the LRAM (Mime)…” may well mean that the Institute of Mime stopped organising examinations, and instead, directed candidates to the Royal Academy of Music, to take the exam at one of their local examination centres. In due course I hope to find out when the LRAM (Mime) first started, who started it and what the syllabus was. If you can help me, please get in touch.

But why did the Institute of Mime choose the Royal Academy of Music? The second part of the quotation may help us to find the answer: the examinations of the Royal Academy of Music were: “… developed by one of Miss Mawer’s teachers”. By this I take it to mean a teacher of mime who was trained by Irene Mawer, as opposed to someone who taught Irene Mawer! (Don’t you just love the English language?). Presumably this person was already employed by the RAM to set up a mime exam, so when the Institute of Mime folded, it would have been a suitable step for Irene Mawer to direct students of mime to the RAM for their examination.

It would seem that it was the Irene Mawer method of mime and movement on which the RAM based their own LRAM (Mime) qualification. I need to make further research into who this teacher was who developed the mime examination at the RAM. Please contact me if you have any information.

Further to this, there is another link which leads me to believe that the Irene Mawer method of mime was taught, not only at the Royal Academy of Music, but also at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). The link is through Rose Bruford.

The Irene Mawer/Rose Bruford link is as follows: Central School>Irene Mawer>Rose Bruford>RAM and RADA.

Elsie Fogerty (Central School) did not teach mime as such when Irene Mawer trained there (1914/15/16). However, Elsie Fogerty acclaimed Irene Mawer as being a ‘born mime’ and would get Irene Mawer to take struggling students aside and to teach them mime just by using her own inbuilt skills. (Info is from a book called ‘Fogie’ which is the biography of Elsie Fogerty, written by Marion Cole.)

Rose Bruford attended the Central School some years after Irene Mawer (I assume it was afterwards, judging from their birth dates, but I don’t know for certain. I have emailed Frank Trew, Librarian for the Rose Bruford Archives today, but with the pandemic I am not expecting a reply for some time). Rose was born in 1904, so if she had attended Central at age 16, that would have been 1920. By this time, the Ginner-Mawer School had been established since 1916 and I assume would just about be graduating its first fully-trained batch of teachers and performers.

Mime may have become a standard curriculum subject at Central by the time Rose Bruford attended. This is another area that I need to research – finding the Central School’s curriculum before and after Irene Mawer’s time there (1914/15/16). Did Irene Mawer have an influence on the Central School curriculum? Elsie Fogerty saw a great talent for mime in Irene Mawer, and perhaps later employed teachers who had trained at the Ginner-Mawer School?

It is likely that mime would have become part of the general curriculum at Central, with the influence of the Ginner-Mawer School which believed that a knowledge of mime enhanced all other skills. Mime was part of everything, including being a hugely valuable part of speech training. I don’t have evidence of whether or not Irene affected the curriculum of Central School, I do need to do further research and am certainly open to being corrected. Please contact me if you have any thoughts on this.

Either way, whether Rose Bruford learned the Irene Mawer method of mime at Central or not, she must have learned it somewhere because she did attain both the Teachers and the Performers mime qualifications from the Institute of Mime, which was founded by Irene Mawer.

I haven’t yet been able to find out the date that Rose Bruford attained these mime certificates, but it was between 1933 and (probably) 1954 though definitely by 1957. This information is from a book called ‘Acting for You’, by John Gunn and Barbara Bingham, p.146. This book, printed in 1957, gives a list of qualifications attained by Rose Bruford and the only mime qualifications listed are those from the Institute of Mime (Teacher and Performer). The Diploma from the Central School is also listed, and as I mentioned earlier, any mime learned there is likely to have been strongly influenced by Irene Mawer. I have no hard evidence for this, but I know that Elsie Fogerty didn’t originally teach mime as a stand alone subject and she was impressed with Irene’s mime skills.

So from this, I deduce that there is a good chance that when Rose Bruford taught at RAM and RADA, if she included mime in the curriculum, then she was likely to be using the Irene Mawer method of mime.

I am open to correction on any of this, indeed, I would actively seek to be corrected, as I want to ensure that my research is as factual as possible. Naturally, I would be overjoyed to find that Irene Mawer had a much greater influence on drama studies than she is currently given credit for, but equally, I can see that I may be accused of putting two and two together and making five because it suits my project and my ego! My ego is not important, the truth is.

In due course, I need to find out what method of mime Rose Bruford taught at RADA and the RAM and then at her own school which she opened in 1950 and what methods are used nowadays, as I very much doubt that Irene Mawer’s method survives.

I will finish with a quote from Rose Bruford, taken from the website of the Rose Bruford College (I do not have a date for the quotation):

“Where mime is a compulsory curriculum subject (and this is rare), it has remarkably fine results. The girls are well poised and easy. At the usual self-conscious age of adolescence they are able to express themselves in a simple, happy, and forthcoming way, instead of becoming over-emotional and ingrown.”


Author: Janet Fizz Curtis

Janet Fizz Curtis is trained in the Irene Mawer Method of Mime and Movement.

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