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The Spontaneity Drain: The social pressures that shaped and then exiled Keith Johnstone's improvisation

The Spontaneity Drain: The social pressures that shaped and then exiled Keith Johnstone's improvisation

McLaughlin, James ORCID: 0000-0002-2146-6884 (2014) The Spontaneity Drain: The social pressures that shaped and then exiled Keith Johnstone's improvisation. In: Comedy and Society Symposium, 22 November 2014, School of Drama, Music and Screen, University of Hull.

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Abstract

Keith Johnstone’s Improvisation had an oppositional relationship to the social and historical conditions of 1950s Britain under which it developed. Its structure and performative dynamic were protests against the normalising forces exerted by the social elite upon the broader population and by civilised society upon the individual. Within this context, the Royal Court Theatre acted as an incubator that allowed Johnstone to develop his subversive theories of performance, drawing on elements of professional wrestling to break down the regimented conventions of the theatre space and enliven the spectator-performer relationship. Eventually Johnstone entered a self-imposed exile from the society that shaped this form of performance and established The Loose Moose Theatre in Calgary, Canada.

This paper will analyse three relationships vital to this narrative: The oppositional reaction of Johnstone's improvisation to the social pressures of 1950's Britain, the creative glasshouse that The Royal Court Theatre provided for Johstone within this broader cultural context, and the effects that the new social situation of Calgary, Canada had on Johnstone's practice.

At the conclusion of the paper I will draw out the consequences of these analyses for contemporary British society and attempt to identify the normalising forces at work within this context, how our arts institutions and creative incubators might foster novel reactions to these pressures, and how public policy might be shaped in order to encourage artists to remain in Britain so that we might benefit from their continued contribution to our cultural discourses.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: keith johnstone, improvisation, censorship, creativity, public policy, repression, creative incubator
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities
Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities > Department of Literature, Language & Theatre
Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities > Literature & Drama Research Group
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2019 16:33
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: GREAT 3
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/24055

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