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The Censor Without, The Censor Within: The Resistance of Johnstone’s Improv to the Social and Political Pressures of 1950s Britain

The Censor Without, The Censor Within: The Resistance of Johnstone’s Improv to the Social and Political Pressures of 1950s Britain

McLaughlin, James ORCID: 0000-0002-2146-6884 (2014) The Censor Without, The Censor Within: The Resistance of Johnstone’s Improv to the Social and Political Pressures of 1950s Britain. In: Theatre and Performance Research Association Annual Conference (TaPRA), 2014, 3-5 September, 2014, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham Campus, TW20 0EX. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Keith Johnstone's improv, popularly known through the Theatresports format, was forged in the cultural and historical context of 1950s Britain. In this paper I will argue that Johnstone's incarnation of theatrical improvisation was defined by its reaction to the normalising forces exerted by the social elite upon the broader population and by civilised society upon the individual.

Johnstone's improv was a reaction against the censorship of the British stage and a challenge to the internalised 'censor' British society implanted in the minds of his students, stunting their creative imaginations. Johnstone borrowed elements of professional wrestling to break down the regimented conventions of the theatre space and enliven the spectator-performer relationship. Johnstone’s improv shares Rolland Barthes’ critique of the authority of the author and allows meaning to be generated out of the encounter between performers and spectators in the instant of the performance’s emergence. Through these processes, Johnstone’s improv defies the censor without (The Lord Chamberlain) by rooting out the censor within (the socially learnt inhibitions to the creative imagination).

This paper will demonstrate the emancipatory power latent in this mode of popular performance. This is a particularly timely analysis given the increasing authority of free market economics to dictate what appears on contemporary British stages and the internalised censor that panoptical CCTV and social media is implanting within the minds of British citizens today.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: keith johnstone, improvisation, censorship, surveillance, creativity, lord chamberlain
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
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
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2019 15:42
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: GREAT 4
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/24060

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