Students of Miming. 1935

Birmingham Evening Dispatch

28 March 1935


This is one of my favourite newspaper cuttings.  It tells a similar story to the previous cuttings, only this time, there was no lecture, it was pure action: a one-day School of Mime, given by Irene Mawer as the Director of the Institute of Mime, on behalf of the Women’s Institute at the Priory Rooms in Birmingham.

This cutting, exclusively, has a photograph.  I love to study the women in the photo and I particularly like the ‘middle-aged matron’ with the beaming smile in the centre of the picture.

The woman on the left hand side of the photo, wearing white and facing away from the camera may well be Irene Mawer.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the tunic that she is wearing is the same as would be worn for Classical Greek Dance practice, but again, I can not be sure.  The woman kneeling next to her is also wearing a tunic, of a different design, so possibly this might be used for Classical Greek Dance as well and the woman might be a student of the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama, and is assisting with the teaching or demonstrating the movements.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the six women at the front of the crowd, all in some type of uniform are all students or former students of Ginner-Mawer.  The expressions on the individual faces make me smile and I enjoy really looking at each person, trying to work out what on earth they thought of the work they were doing.

Almost one hundred women from the WI attended the day, coming from many different parts of England: Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffs, Monmouthshire and Radnorshire.  Not a bad turnout.

The journalist may have been primed, in any case, she or he hit the exact note to sum up the day’s mime activities whereby each student ‘gazed pensively down on the lights and shadows in a pool of water and rapturously upward at sunshine and trees’.  That reminds me of my own training; there was that ‘olde worlde’ atmosphere about it which, of course, would not have seemed olde worlde in the 1930s.

Towards the tail end of the article, we hear how Irene Mawer believes that the true proponent of mime is on an equal footing with any great Shakespearian actor.  On the other hand, mime is beneficial to everyone in giving confidence.  We would perhaps find Miss Mawer’s term ‘countrywomen’ condescending today, but I think she used it only in the same way that I use the term ‘working class’ women today.  Social norms change and with it, language.

Miss Mawer has largely been forgotten by today’s drama historians.  Please help the search engines to find this page by liking/sharing/commenting, etc.  Thank you.

Author: Janet Fizz Curtis

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

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