You Review a Local Author: This Precious Jewel: MIME, the Body as Instrument – William Dashwood

Reviewed by Elysia Brenner

“It’s not a book just for mimes,” the blurb teases. And there is truth in that. With that in mind, the title of William Dashwood’s This Precious Jewel: MIME, The Body as Instrument sums up exactly what you should expect from the book: it’s longer and perhaps more confusing than it needs to be, and the language can be overly flowery at times… but the book will teach you how to “play” your body, finding notes you never knew existed. And, yes, it will likely change what you think about mime.

The tone flops between technical instruction, psychological exploration, and vaguely philosophical meanderings; unfortunately, the third detracts from the first two. The weakest section of the book is its opening (“Part 1: Can You Make Money at That?” – a question never really answered). It rambles and lectures through a prolonged defense of the form of miming that seems unnecessary in a book whose serious tan cover makes it unlikely to be picked up by someone not already interested. Along the way, however, many misconceptions are squashed: Pantomime is but one of the many types of miming, it turns out. There are even mimes who speak!

The book is least convincing when it emphasizes the differences between miming and other theatrical disciplines (kudos for the description “dance devours the stage”; thumbs down for insisting dancers don’t draw their movements from emotion). It is in Parts 2-5 that the book has its broadest appeal. Here it lays out, in detail, muscle movements you have never considered so that you find yourself almost subconsciously acting them out, already exploring your body’s capabilities while you read. Dancers and actors will have much to learn from the perceptions of postures, managers will find the discussion of status projection fascinating, and even writers have something to learn from the analysis of emotional conveyance and story development. Mostly, however, the book is ideal for the reference shelf of any… well, mime.

You Review a Local Author: Books with an orange connection, reviewed by ABC customers.

William Dashwood is based in The Netherlands.  His book is sold on consignment at ABC Amsterdam.