Darlington School of Mime. 1935

Darlington School of Mime

Northern Echo, Darlington

6 March 1935


Darlington is a town in the gritty, working class, north east of England, very close to Durham.  This newspaper clipping covers a mime workshop in York, 54 miles away and is a prime example showing how Irene Mawer wanted to work with women from less privileged backgrounds.  Miss Mawer achieved this through working with the Women’s Institute (WI).

As we have seen in previous blog posts, the Institute of Mime worked closely with the WI and Irene Mawer attended many of the workshops in person, including this one in York which was hosted by the WI.

The workshop seems to have followed the format of previous lecture-demonstrations, with Miss Mawer giving a talk on the history of mime and speaking of it being the oldest art in the world – the beginning of all of the dramatic arts.  She continues along the theme of how mime can help the student to gain control of their bodies as well as their minds.  Once this has been achieved, then the student can move forward to give characterisations of people very different to themselves.

Miss Mawer stated in the article that ‘dramatic art, religious instinct and natural life have always gone hand in hand and any form of drama that is not big enough to stand up to the needs of our national life is no good.’  To my ear, this sounds rather deep and seems to be a lot to expect from learning mime.  I certainly didn’t feel this worldly weight upon me during my training.

If the final quote from Miss Mawer is correct, then it carries on in this vein of deep thought, bringing in the additional theme of the British Empire which was still bright and alive in the minds of English people (and I choose the term ‘English’ on purpose) in the years before the Second World War.  Such language would not be acceptable today – but Irene was a product of her times: ‘…with the conquest of the new worlds came the perfecting of our literary art.  I don’t think it is too much to hope that this new England which we are building shall bring forth some great art if we are to keep our drama to the needs of our lives and don’t try to implant something extraneous.’

The newspaper article then comes back down to earth with the bland note that Miss Mawer ‘gave demonstrations and practical classes’ in the afternoon and that there were a large number of WI members present.

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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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