If Irene Mawer were still alive, she would be a very old lady indeed – in fact, on 13 March 2021 she would be 128 years old!
Irene Rose Mawer was born on 13th March 1893; the sixth and final child of affluent parents in the Wandsworth area of Surrey. Following boundary changes, Wandsworth later became part of London.
One month after her birth Irene was baptised into the Church of England at the Holy Trinity Church in Wandsworth which was close to the family home at Park Lodge in Wimbledon Park, Wandsworth. The family moved home several times, but always stayed local to the area – no doubt to keep an eye on this family house furnishing business. With the expansion of the railways, London grew rapidly and Wandsworth came to include Putney, where Irene later went to school.
Irene loved her years at Putney High School, where she was something of a polymath. Literature, the love of words and a love of Ancient Greece all played a big part during her school years – enough for her to expect to study literature at degree level. She took a leading role in at least one school play and was an excellent sportswoman, particularly excelling at tennis, winning the School Tennis Championship in 1908 and donating the netball cup to the school in her final year at school (1910).
Sadly, Irene’s hopes of attending University were dashed, almost at the last moment, due to ill health and family misfortunes. However, the resilient Miss Mawer rallied herself and a few years later met Ruby Ginner when they were both students at Elsie Fogerty’s Central School of Speech and Drama in rooms at the Albert Hall in London. Around 1916 the two young women formed the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama – a business partnership and a friendship which lasted for almost fifty years.
Irene branched out into the drama side of things, while Ruby Ginner concentrated on the dance, particularly creating her own style of Classical Greek Dance. Irene Mawer was a ‘born mime’ and over the years she created her own teaching techniques. The mime was never intended to be a ‘stand alone’ art, and on the whole was practiced as part of acting and dance training.
In 1962, Irene Mawer died at the age of 69. Her legacy has been largely forgotten, though those who do know of her agree that she was indeed important in the world of stage movement for actors. Less well known is her work in education and, in particular, the use of mime as an educational tool.
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