Roedean School for Girls. 1933

Sussex Daily News 

13 November 1933 

The Oldest Art: mime demonstrated at Brighton 

Roedean is a private, fee-paying school in the south of England.  This newspaper clipping describes a mime demonstration there, given by Irene Mawer.  

Reading this newspaper article in conjunction with the newspaper article described in one of my previous blog posts, it is clear that the demonstration was given under the auspices of the Institute of Mime, rather than the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama.  Those in attendance included Mr Brown; members of the Women’s Institute; and the Girl Guides Association – all of whom were mentioned in a previous blog post. 

In this review, Miss Mawer is credited with re-kindling the lost art of mime in Britain.  Her lecture-demonstration traced the origins of mime right through to the famous mime play L’Enfant Prodigue which was first performed a few years before Irene Mawer was born. 

The Roedean lecture-demonstration gave a brief run-though of some of the techniques used in what I term the Irene Mawer Method of Mime.  There was a demonstration of physical exercises, which I have no doubt are the same exercises that I learned in the early 1980s, followed by a show of how the body could be used to express emotions of all types.  After that, Miss Mawer demonstrated how characters could be shown in mime, eg, a Frenchman, a charwoman and a Cockney.  (We would consider this to be rather a strange choice today, I think).  Then Miss Mawer and her assistants demonstrated how a whole story could be told without speech. 

In my own training, there was an emphasis on learning how people from various historical eras would have moved – both men and women.  And this was demonstrated during the Roedean lecture, from Medieval, through crinoline-wearing 18th Century ladies, to present day modern dress: each set of clothing causes the person to move, sit, stand and walk in a specific manner. 

The religious element was included in the demonstration, and Miss Mawer seemed to want to tie education through mime in with the Religious Drama movement under the auspices of the Council of the Religion and Drama Association of the Diocese of Chicester.  I am confused by this link, as I haven’t come across anything so far which points to Irene Mawer as having anything other than ‘average’ religious convictions.  Certainly, the ‘old girls’ who I have spoken to never mentioned any emphasis on a religious element to their time at Ginner-Mawer, or to Miss Mawer being a particularly devout or God-fearing person and she was cremated rather than buried in a church graveyard.  However, many of her mime plays did have a religious aspect to them, and this certainly gave scope for wonderful themes of supplication, benevolence, praise, raising from the dead, miracles, Easter and Christmas productions. 

This series of newspaper articles will be continued in the future.  Please like/share/comment, etc, so that Irene Mawer’s work can be known more widely.  Thank you. 


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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