Perhaps the last remaining student of the Irene Mawer Method of Mime and Movement – Janet Fizz Curtis is searching for others who may be able to share this story of a now-forgotten technique.

Janet Fizz’s training took place in the tiny kitchen of her teacher’s home, in Leeds, West Yorkshire in the north of England. Her teacher, Mrs Noni Durling, instilled the same love for Classical Greek Dance that the Ginner-Mawer School had instilled in her, and so the tradition continued. There was also a shared love of Pierrot – Miss Mawer, Mrs Durling, Janet. This love didn’t need to be instilled – it was already innate.

Here is a brief outline of Irene Mawer’s career:

In the early 1980s (when Janet Fizz was in her early twenties) she studied the Irene Mawer Method of Mime and Movement.  Janet Fizz’s teacher was an elderly lady called Mrs Nora (Noni) Durling and she taught Janet Fizz in the tiny kitchen of her house in Leeds.

Mrs Durling had been a “Ginner-Mawer”.  This means that she had been a student at the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama.  At first, the school was based in London (approximately 1916-1939).  Then came the Second World War (1939-1945) and the bombs falling on London forced the school to move to Boscastle in Cornwall in the South of England.  After the Second World War, the school moved to the very elegant town of Cheltenham which is also in the South of England.

Finally, Miss Ginner retired in 1954 and the school closed.  Miss Mawer continued to work and moved to Edgbaston, near Birmingham.  When Miss Mawer eventually retired, she moved back to the South of England, to a tiny village called Blewbury – her great friend Miss Ginner already lived there.  When Irene Mawer died in 1962, the two women had been friends for 47 years!

Both Miss Mawer and Miss Ginner were married – but used their maiden names as their professional names.  Irene Mawer (1893 – 1962) was married first to Robert Jacomb Norris Dale.  He was killed in action during World War One.  In 1930, Irene married Mark Edward Perugini (a relation-by-marriage to Charles Dickens).  Ruby Ginner was married to Alec Dyer.

Ruby Ginner was awarded an MBE and is well known for her development of Classical Greek Dance.  Irene Mawer has been left behind by the history books – though academics who know of her consider her to have been an important influence on the teaching of movement for modern actors (eg, Mark Evans’ book “Movement Training for the Modern Actor”).

Irene Mawer was described as being a ‘born mime’ – it came naturally to her, without any prior knowledge of what mime even was.  She developed a method of teaching mime to others, and many of the exercises were closely based on those of the Classical Greek Dance.  Irene Mawer’s mime was not intended to be a ‘stand-alone’ art, rather the students of mime were expected to bring the work into all of their other disciplines, including voice work.  This may sound strange, but being trained in the Irene Mawer Method of Mime gave a ‘wholeness’ and a ‘finish’ to theatrical performances and to dances: perhaps a composure or a confidence or a flexibility – something ‘extra’ which would otherwise have been missing.

Although Janet Fizz never went on to use her mime training in a professional way, the ‘wholeness’ or ‘finish’ has stayed with her for the whole of her life – as it was intended to do.  It has given her a composure and a confidence which she otherwise would not have had.  Perhaps Janet Fizz is the last person to be trained in the Irene Mawer Method of Mime, which is a rather sad thing to think about.  So if anyone reading this was also trained in the Irene Mawer Method, please do get in touch.  Indeed, Janet Fizz would love to hear from anyone who has heard of Irene Mawer.

Please Message Janet Fizz via the Facebook page called “Irene Mawer – Mime and Movement” or email info@irenemawer.com

Janet Fizz Curtis
November 2020