1955, A Plea for Mime

18 August 1955

The Stage

In 1955 a letter was printed in The Stage, Britain’s leading theatre publication at that time, one year after the closure of the Ginner-Mawer School.  The writer of the letter, Eileen Varley, had been a student at Ginner-Mawer and was obviously in favour of the mime that Irene Mawer had been teaching.

Eileen was pointing out the value of mime to the theatre and asked “Why, then, have we no professional mime companies in this country?”  Indeed, a question that I, too, have been asking myself for many years!  Miss Varley continued “so many mistaken ideas have arisen about the use of mime that only a fully trained company will ever be able to prove that this is not a musty, rather vulgar-looking form of theatre…” which people might have seen in old pictures of the Commedia dell’Arte, which can be a very vulgar art, indeed.

A good point is made, when Eileen describes the mime used in ballet as formalized, which indeed it is.  In fact, I feel it is so stylised that unless you have learned it beforehand, there is no way that you would automatically know what many of the gestures mean.  Someone who is not familiar with ballet, who is perhaps attending their first ever performance, would definitely not know how to read the gestures (and I am talking from experience, here).

This newspaper clipping appeared in my search engine because it contains Irene’s name – so I don’t know if there was any reply the following week, but in any case, Eileen’s plea fell on deaf ears.


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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