Some time ago I published a blog post where I noted that I thought there was a link between Laurence Olivier and Irene Mawer. I am happy to say, that following a visit to NRCD, I have now found the evidence to prove what I suspected: in his youth Lord Olivier did receive training from Irene Mawer.
Irene Mawer (1893-1962) was an English mime and teacher of drama and voice, who with Ruby Ginner was the co-founder of the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama, later she was sole founder of the Institute of Mime.
After Miss Mawer’s death, Sir Laurence Olivier (he had been knighted by this time) became a patron of the memorial mime competition which was created to commemorate her life and work (1964/1965/1966). Why would he do that? Why would a famous actor honour Irene Mawer’s memory? Why would a person who had been awarded one of Britain’s highest honours for his services to the world of theatre bother to become a patron of an Institute of Mime which had been under the auspices of Irene Mawer?
The connection between Miss Mawer and Laurence Olivier is that when he was a teenager, she was one of the people who helped to teach him how to use his body, and how to perform on stage!
⁃ Irene Mawer trained under Elsie Fogerty at the Central School c. 1912-1915.
⁃ Laurence Olivier later attended the Central School.
⁃ Irene Mawer taught mime at the Central School and helped to train the young Laurence.
⁃ Irene Mawer founded the Institute of Mime in 1933.
⁃ The Institute of Mime had links with the Central School, RADA, LRAM, Douglas-Webber School and Rose Bruford which all employed teachers of mime who had trained under Mawer.
Here in Miss Mawer’s own words is the evidence (taken from The Link, October 1937, p.23):
“Among the many brilliant actors and actresses who have passed through Miss Fogerty’s hands and whom, in their wild youth, I helped to train, are Laurence Olivier, whom I remember as a particularly violent leader of the Revolutionarie in THE RED ROSES, with Mrs. Laurie as the Marquis, Alison Leggatt who played Priscilla, and last, but by no means least, John Laurie, who won’t mind my reminding him of the desperate occasion when he put his jaw out at the dress rehearsal of Priscilla and played the part of George with that offending member supported by a handkerchief, which was tied in a bow on the top of his head.”
Olivier received a knighthood in 1947 and then became a Baron in 1970 which entitled him to be called Lord Olivier.