Felicia Mallet (1863-1928) was a French woman who taught mime to Elsie Fogerty (1865-1945), who in turn ‘let fall’ nuggets of knowledge to Irene Mawer (1893-1962) when she was a pupil at Fogerty’s Central School in England during World War One.
According to Wikipedia, Mallet was a comedian, singer and pantomime artist (not the same thing as those British pantomimes which are performed at Christmas) who was also greatly admired as a mime.
In 1938, Mawer wrote an article about the Cercle Funambulesque in which she praises Mallet. Please see one of my recent blog posts for information about Cercle Funambulesque (circa 1889). In her article, Mawer discusses music that is used in mime performances, including compositions by French composer and teacher Stephane Raoul Pugno (1852-1914).
Mawer’s article uses quotations from a book about Cercle Funambulesque which was previously owned by Edward Gordon Craig. She tells us about how Raoul Pugno took “God Save the Queen” and used it in various different ways in a mime play called “La Danseuse au Corde” (dancing and acrobatics on a tight rope).
Mawer continues with a quote from Raoul Pugno about this show “What pure joy it is to compose a mime with such a collaborator as Felicia Mallet. This woman is the incarnation of mimic genius and has the most artistic temperament it is possible to find. She worked at home, studying all the parts, living each successively. Then she arrived at rehearsal able to help both author and composer. She breathed her own soul into everything. For myself, if I touched my piano then I could only, to my own despair, produce atrocious and formless ‘motifs’, and fall silent. Then I watched her mime, gesture by gesture, step by step, making notes for my own use, the number of bars, the tempos used. When the scene finished or the emotion changed, I indicated the change of tempo required…then from these notes I wrote the score at night.”
Looking back over fifty years, to a time just before she was even born, Mawer was in awe of Mallet and wrote “No wonder, if Felicia Mallet could so inspire the composer of an earlier mime by her genius, that, when at last L’Enfant Prodigue came to be produced, her Pierrot was its piece de resistance.”(The Link, January 1938, p. 9). She continues “We have read of the fiery genius and intellect of Felicia Mallet, who created the part of Pierrot Fils. Jane May (b. Circa 1861), who played the part in London, was of a different type, ‘a Dresden china figure, naive, perverse and exquisite, who turned all heads with her pretty face and her diminutive person.’” In Mawer’s papers saved from after her death, there is a programme for the Jane May performance, though it is unlikely that Mawer would have attended as she was a small child at the time and as a young adult did not really know what mime was until she attended Central School.
Felicia Mallet’s date of death is not quite known, but is around 1928 which would have made her 65 years old. She was remembered by many as being an incomparable mime, an impeccable story teller and an actress of the first order.