Most helpful critical review
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Challenging but difficult to judge
on June 2, 2002
Impro is divided in four sections, Status, Spontaneity, Narrative Skills, and Masks and Trance. The most interesting section, Status, discusses how general physical attitudes dictate our attitude and how other people see us. Johnstone expounds his idea that all relationships are plays on status. His other chapters are more technical and discuss various theater exercises meant to stimulate spontaneity and narrative skills.
This book is difficult to judge. On the one hand, it is very challenging and engages us with interesting ideas, especially about status and power relations. But the last chapter in particular is replete with paranormal and new age nonsense - hypnosis, trances, aborigene religions, everything gets thrown in the mix. Johnstone's attitude towards education is also surprisingly outdated for a 1981 book : he keeps harping on educational attitudes which belong in the fifties. Johnstone is obviously a very superficial and linear-thinking man.
I suppose the recommendation would have to be based on whenever one works in the theater or not. If the former, then this book will no doubt be of great help, if one can ignore the nonsense : otherwise there is little recommend this book.