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Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre [Hardcover]

Keith Johnstone , Irving Wardle
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Jun 1979
Keith Johnstone's involvement with the theatre began when George Devine and Tony Richardson, artistic directors of the Royal Court Theatre, commissioned a play from him. This was the year of Look Back in Anger in 1956. A few years later he was himself Associate Artistic Director, in particular helping to run the writers' group. The techniques and exercises evolved there to foster spontaneity and narrative skills were developed further in the actors' studio, then in demonstrations to schools and colleges and ultimately in the founding of a company of performers called The Theatre Machine. Divided into four sections, "Status", "Spontaneity", "Narrative Skills" and "Masks and Trance", arranged more or less in the order a group might approach them, the book sets out the specific techniques and exercises which Johnstone has himself found most useful and most stimulating. The result is a fascinating exploration of the nature of spontaneous creativity." If teachers were honoured in the British theatre along-side directors, designers and playwrights, Keith Johnstone would be as familiar a name as are those of Jocelyn Herbert, Edward Bond and other young talents who were drawn to the great lodestone of the Royal Court Theatre in the late 1950s. As head of the script department, Johnstone played a crucial part in the development of the 'writers' theatre '" (Irving Wardle)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (18 Jun 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571109896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571109890
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,409,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A hundred practical techniques for encouraging spontaneity and originality by catching the subconscious unawares... here is an inexhaustible supply of zany suggestions for unfreezing the petrified imagination.' -- Daily Telegraph

'If you don't have this book - get it quick... Johnstone's insights are as powerfully clear as ever... It's a treasure trove of ideas and methods; it will ease and enrich work and studies... An invigorating read.' -- Reviews Gate (August 2007) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Keith Johnstone is an internationally recognized authority in the field of improvisation. His books Impro, and Impro For Storytellers, have been translated into many languages. He leads master classes in improvisation around the world. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant guide for actors and teachers 14 Jan 2000
one of those very few books that can change how you work in fundamental ways... Brilliantly funny, thoughtful and perceptive about the ways that teachers deal with their students and the games they unintentionally or unconsciously play with each other in classrooms; highly practical in its sections on mask, narratives, spontaneity, and improvisation; subversive and constructive at the same time. Sadly, very much better than his follow-up 'Impro in storytelling 'which recycles many of the ideas from this. As it says above - buy it, share it...
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Keith Johnstone is a visionary in the field of improvisation theatre. His concepts of status hierarchies are ground-breaking. They show that humans, like animals, are at ease with each other when the underlying status hierarchy is understood and undisputed.

However, all kinds of interesting tensions are created when the status hierarchy IS disputed. For actors, this concept from Keith's book is golden:

1) If you want to be seen as a natural performer, you need to know your status in relation to the other humans, and even things around you.

2) If you want to create interesting drama, you and your co-actors need to manipulate your statuses in interesting ways. These dynamic movements and challenges are interesting and funny for the audience.

Keith describes this and much, much more in his fascinating book. The generous use of actual improvisation situations makes the book very hands-on, funny and analytical.

Impro also expands from improvisation acting to such areas as creative writing, teaching and mask and trance work. Even the bits one does not agree with are superbly constructed and offer an insightful view on the sometimes weird and wonderful world of creative minds at work.

The improvisation actors in such shows as "Whose line is it anyway?" or London's Comedy Store borrow many of their techniques from Keith.

This book is one to read, whether you are an actor, spectator or just plain interested in smooth, congruent human interactions. Pure genius.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unleash your imagination... 28 Aug 2001
not a very creative summary, but it's true. I've owned this book for a number of years and have kept going back to it for creative impetus. I'm in no way associated with theatre (though I did go once), in fact my career is very humdrum and involves maths, computers and finance! The point is that I've used the books techniques in each of these areas to help boost my creativity. It contains some great techniques and I found the writing very clear, precise and (of course)original. Most books on creativity tend to be very 'uncreative' and keep repeating the same ideas. I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to kick start their imagination in any area.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous 12 Oct 2005
Of all the drama theory books I have read, this was certainly the most enjoyable. I found myself reading it as though it were a fictional storybook, thoroughy enjoying every word. Johnstone completely changes your perspective on imagination and being 'creative' or 'uncreative'. the best bit about it is that half of what he explains you kid of realise you knew all along, but were never aware of it, like 'cencoring' the first idea to ocme into our head. Impro has certainly helped me with my Theatre Studies Degree course! a must have for anyone who finds the imagination fasscinating.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book is worth buying for the chapters on Mask and trance alone. Johnstone took risks in his work at The Royal Court in the 50's andf 60's before others even thought abut it...and despite opposition from Directors used Masks in rehearsal and for development of Actors. Today it is the most widely used text in working with masks in therapy, not only forits creativity, but for its clear and structured accounts of creating safety and the potency of the mask. Buy it, use and tell others about it....its a priceless gem of a book...
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lost for inspiriation? try this. 13 Feb 2002
By A Customer
a great book for making you think about where you are in theatre.also gives good adeas which you can adapt yourself into your own ideas. good chapter on status which provokes alot of thought-dont be surprised in you no longer move out of the way when faced with a person coming towards you in the street!
Good book for drama students-particularly in your viva's!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Richard Griffiths VINE VOICE
This is an excellent, concise and insightful book that gave me a whole new view of human interaction. Just that alone has allowed me to see through my own daily interactions with friends and colleagues. The first chapter that discusses status will have you hooked for the remainder of the book. You'll read it twice, in the first week or two I suspect. Well worth your time!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars still crazy, after all these years 17 Oct 2010
By cerrig
It's a brilliant, practical book, and things like this don't really date much because it's about the essence of dramatic improvisation. It changed how I taught and directed students nearly 30 years ago, and I bet it still could do so for those who havn't retired! The insights into status apply to life all round us - on any crowded city street, you can see status plays forming and resolving. Fascinating.
The one-star review, by the way, related to Amazon and not the content of the book, which doesn't seem quite right.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book
It never fails to amaze me how observant proponents of impro and acting in general are

This book is a wonderful study of Status and other aspects of human nature in... Read more
Published 8 months ago by B. Towns
1.0 out of 5 stars Great book, awful ebook
Please note, this book is wonderful. But do not make the mistake I did and buy it for the Kindle. The original book has clearly been scanned for the Kindle and absolutely NO proof... Read more
Published 14 months ago by altpink
5.0 out of 5 stars impro Keith Johstone
This is obviously a specialised subject- people who work in or who are interested in theatre. This is written by a true master of the genre- its fascinating and entertaining.
Published 16 months ago by bruce campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars Every actor should have this book.
I found out about this book via Ideas Tap and I'm so glad I did. What a fascinating read. It's really opened my mind. Read more
Published 16 months ago by K F
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book there is on impro and imagination
Johnstone's book laid the foundation for our ideas about improvisation and theatre. Anybody active in the theatre (pro or amateur) should read this, but it is a fascinating read... Read more
Published on 11 Jun 2012 by Gracer
5.0 out of 5 stars key
I think Johnstone's book revitalized performing for me. Reading it was talking with a great friend, and continually proved, and still proves inspiring. Read more
Published on 29 Feb 2012 by Almos
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and fascinating
Was recommended to me by a friend who re-reads it every year. The first part of the book was the most interesting for me. Read more
Published on 17 Sep 2011 by G Colborne
3.0 out of 5 stars Good chapter on status but there are better improv books
There seem to be two distinct camps in improv; those who follow Keith Johnstone's teaching and those who prefer Del Close's. Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2011 by J. LLOYD
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book in excellent condition :)
The book I ordered arrived within 2 days and is in excellent condition. Along with the book came a friendly hand written 'thank you' note with a big smile on it, which gave the... Read more
Published on 6 Sep 2011 by AndreaLisa
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and great techniques
I am not an actor or an aspiring actor but I am in interested in writing and I have found many of the techniques in this book to be very useful. Read more
Published on 10 Dec 2010 by The Emperor
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