James A. McLaughlin

Dr James McLaughlin PhD, MA, BA, FHEA

Lecturer in Drama; Lead - Centre for Creative Futures

Key details

Dr James A. McLaughlin

Lecturer in Drama; Lead - Centre for Creative Futures

Dr. James McLaughlin trained at the University of Auckland in English, Philosophy and Drama before embarking on a career as a comedian, writer and theatre director.

He was the founding Theatre Manager of New Zealand's only improvised comedy theatre, the Covert Theatre.  He has fifteen years of professional improv experience, including numerous tours throughout New Zealand, North America and Europe.  He has participated in an improv masterclass with Keith Johnstone and won the inaugural World Cage Match Championship at The Chicago Improv Festival.

He trained for two years in The Meisner Technique of Acting under Michael Saccente, one of Sanford Meisner's students and worked as a freelance actor for various screen projects.

In 2005 he relocated to the UK for the MA in Theatre Practice under Phillip Zarrilli where he studied psychophysical acting through the disciplines of yoga, tai chi chuan and kalaripayattu. He completed his PhD on the resonances between the Meisner Technique and contemporary performance in 2013.  From 2013 to 2017 he lectured in Drama at the University of Northampton before joining the team at the University of Greenwich.


Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Member of the Theatre and Performance Research Association Performer Training Working Group.

Research / Scholarly interests

James' three main research interests are Comedy, Method Acting, and Intercultural Performance.

James is a specialist in the field of comedic performance, especially the improvisation of Keith Johnstone and Del Close. Drawing on his experience of improvisation in this field (The Improv Society Incorporated, The Covert Theatre, and Slap in the Face Theatre), he is exploring the impact narratives of this form of performance.

He has a second specialty in American Method Acting and the Stanislavski tradition, especially the Meisner Technique, Strasberg's Method Acting, and Stella Adler's approach to acting. Through his PhD he has researched the resonances and connections between the modern realist paradigm of theatre and postmodern performance of the late Twentieth Century.

His third research interest is in intercultural theatre and performance. This developed from his time on the MA in Theatre Practice at the University of Exeter under Phillip Zarrilli and is the foundation of several research projects currently under development.

Since 2016, James has co-edited the Theatre Dance and Performance Training Blog, associated with the scholarly journal of the same name. (http://theatredanceperformancetraining.org/) This role enables him to maintain a close engagement with the cutting edge of research into theatre, dance, and performance training.

Recent publications

McLaughlin, James. (2013). 'Why is Improv Funny?' in Comedy Studies, Chris Ritchie (ed.), 4(1), Bristol: Intellect.


McLaughlin, James. (2017) 'Stepping of the Cliff: The Sharp Divide between Training and Performance in Improvised Comedy.' Performer Training Working Group, TAPRA annual conference, Salford, 30 August – 1 September, 2017.

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

McLaughlin, James. (2014) 'The Censor Without, The Censor Within: The Resistance of Johnstone's Improv to the Social and Political Pressures of 1950s Britain.' Popular Performance Working Group, TAPRA annual conference, Royal Holloway, September 35, 2014.

McLaughlin, James. (2014) 'Meisner's Repetition Exercise: Towards a subjective ethics for the performative moment.' Obligations in Contemporary Theatre and Performance Practices Conference, Exeter, 30 January, 2014.

McLaughlin, James. (2013) 'Re-constructed Narratives of Embodiment: The Meisner Technique through Sanford Meisner on Acting.' Performer Training Working Group, TAPRA annual conference, Glasgow, September 4-6, 2013.

McLaughlin, James. (2012) 'Meisner's Echoes in the Postmodern: Rediscovering continuities between a realistic acting methodology and postmodern performance.'  Humanities Postgraduate Research Conference, Hosted by the College of Humanities, University of Exeter - 30 April & 1 May 2012.

McLaughlin, James. (2012) 'The Hidden Compartment: Shaping the performer's consciousness through Meisner's "Independent activity" exercise.'  IFTR Performance and Consciousness Working Group, IFTR Annual Conference, Santiago, Chile. July 22-28 2010.