A book review from 1932 for The Art of Mime

Today’s blog post is a copy of an article printed in an old newspaper. The article is taken from a newspaper cutting, found on the website of the British newspaper Archive (britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

The writer of the article is not named and makes the unfortunate assertion, right at the start, that Miss Mawer was a dancer. By Irene’s own account, she was, and never would be, a dancer – a view which she formed in her late teens. Decades of practise could, perhaps, have made her competent, but probably not accomplished. Perhaps it depends on one’s point of view.

The newspaper article is a review of Miss Mawer’s most famous book The Art of Mime:

“That accomplished dancer and exponent of miming, Miss Irene Mawer, who has appeared at so many performances in association with Miss Ruby Ginner, has followed up her work, The Dance of Words, with an elaborate treatise on The Art of Mime, dealing with it history and technique in education and the theatre. This book, published by the firm of Methuen at 7s. 6d. net, has upwards of thirty illustrations, with, for frontispiece, a fine portrait of Miss Mawer as she appeared in the second act of L’Enfant Prodigue. There are pictures, too, of Jane May in the title-role of the same famous play, and also of Mr G French as Harlequin and of Mme. Auriol as Columbine.

The first part of a book, on the compilation and writing of which Miss Mawer must have taken great pains, has the very cumbrous explanatory description, “The History of Mime and of Symbolic, Expressive, and Dramatic Movement,” the second and third parts having the simpler headings of “The Technique of Mime” and “Mime in Education.” In her opening chapters, after dealing with the primitive and religious origins of mimetic movement, and touching on the Asiatic dramas of China, Japan, and India, Miss Mawer takes us, via Egypt, ancient Rome, and Greece, and the religious dramas of the Dark Ages, on to the Commedia dell Arte and the Franco-Italian comedies.

There follow sections on Deburau and Melodrama and on representatives of miming in England from the seventeenth century to the present day, and also brief histories of the Harlequinade characters: Harlequin, Columbine, Pantaloon, Clown, and Pierrot. All such important matters are discussed with the brevity essential to the scheme of such a work in the course of some 120 pages. Even within these limits Miss Mawer has been able to treat her complex subject with a considerable amount of detail and illustrate it with a number of anecdotes and historical facts. The other two parts are dealt with in the serious manner expected of this zealous exponent of he art of miming. A short bibliography has been complied for the use of students.”

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Author: Janet Fizz Curtis

Janet Fizz Curtis is trained in the Irene Mawer Method of Mime and Movement and is now writing a book about the life of Irene Mawer.

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