Birmingham Repertory Playgoers’ Society 1937

Birmingham Gazette, 17 September 1937

1937 – it was two years before the start of World War 2 and Irene Mawer was flying high.  In this newspaper article, we learn that she visited Birmingham.  As mentioned in the article, Mawer already had close connections with the Birmingham School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art.  However, on this occasion, she was working with the Repertory Playgoers’ Society.

With Joyce Ruscoe, a former student who had become a close friend and co-worker, the pair gave one of their regular mime lecture-demonstrations.  This comprised a short history of mime, including ‘a chorus from a classic Greek play’.  I don’t know what this would have been, and I don’t know enough about Ancient Greek plays to know whether or not two people is enough for a chorus.  I wonder how this would have been staged?  If the pair mimed, then there would have needed to be some sort of spoken or written introduction (perhaps in the printed programme), otherwise surely the mimed actions would have been unintelligible without their context.

Moving through time, the Greek chorus was followed by a scene from a mediaeval religious drama (Mawer had plenty of those to draw on), and then some characters from the Italian Commedia Dell’Arte, finishing the short historical section with a scene from Mawer’s iconic performance as  Pierrot in L’Enfant Prodigue.

After the interval, Mawer and Ruscoe gave a talk on the technique for mime that Mawer had developed and how mime was used at that time.  I would have liked to have known what they said about its current usage.  I know Mawer was trying to get mime put onto the curriculum in schools, and also for it to be used both as a method of communication and as an entertainment for people with hearing loss.

The next paragraph in the newspaper article notes that the Birmingham School of Speech Training already has a teacher of mime ‘for this session’ (I don’t know what that means).  And guess what!  The teacher, one Miss Leda Cree, is a Ginner-Mawer Old Girl.  Naturally.

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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