Improv Community Heroes: 15 Years of North East Improv!

Alex and I can’t wait to get back on the road with Sex, Lies & Improvisation, a dark comedy about lying together. But resuming our tour is only possible thanks to those improvisers who run great events in their improv communities. Let’s celebrate them.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are…The Improv Community Heroes!

Hero Fact File

Names: Bev Fox and Ian McLaughlin

Location of Hero-ing: Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Community events:  The Suggestibles’ School of Improv Online Classes for Beginners, Improvers and Advanced students. (Real-world classes will resume when it’s safe to do so). Their improv blog includes articles on improv and videos of some of their signature games and exercises. You can also add your company to the Improv Map of the World.

Troupe: The Suggestibles

Festival: Newcastle Improv Festival


Rachel: How did you get into improvisation? 

 Bev and Ian: In 1987 we moved to London and turned up to a workshop run by the late and wonderful Chris Johnston – It was life changing. We then joined Theatre Sports London and got really hooked.

 In 88/89 we were playing regular shows at the Canal Café and all over London. We started guesting with the Comedy Store Players, and Alan Marriott and Antony Ingle formed the Impro Musical which started at the Gate Theatre and ran for 10+ years at BAC and Banana Cabaret, toured the UK and Europe, and had an ITV and BBC Radio 4 series called the Bootleg Broadway show. We worked with lots of improv groups throughout the nineties including Spontaneous Combustion, and Improbable Theatre who Bev still works with from time to time.

 We moved back to our hometown Newcastle in 2002, and in 2003 set up our comedy group The Suggestibles and school of improv which delivers on-going training and regular shows to take part in. We wanted to put improv on the North East map. 2019 marked our 15th anniversary so we put on the first ever Newcastle Improv Festival to celebrate. NiF was a nine-day fest that brought together local talent, with national artists, and also it was great to bring up some of our ‘old’ improv pals who we started out with. Dying to do another!

 Rachel: What do you love about improvisation? 

 Bev and Ian: Free association, free expression and free hugs. Improv still continues to surprise us and that’s magic.

 Rachel: What drives you to do good things for the improv community? 


Bev and Ian: The people that come to our workshops inspire us. For us it is more than a performance art. It is the art of being human.

 Rachel: What does an improv community need to thrive? 

 Bev and Ian: A focal point. Someone to bring everyone together and free (virtual) hugs.

 Rachel: What are the best things about your improv community? 

 Bev and Ian: It has a social life outside of the scene itself. There are various groups who get together to party, play games and eat and drink.

 Rachel: What advice or inspiration have you taken from other improv communities? 

 Bev and Ian: Don’t take it too seriously. (It takes the fun out of it!) Some communities do and there is a hierarchy to them. We’ve never been fans of a ladder to climb. Although our classes have levels to them, it is up to the individual to decide when they feel ready to move up and/pr perform and we do our best to guide them, because we are all about instilling confidence at the right time.

 Rachel: What’s challenging about being an improv community hero? 

 Bev and Ian: We are not heroes, but are at the centre of our community. It’s sometimes challenging to keep everyone happy – so many different needs and goals – but I think we do a pretty good job even though it takes a lot of time and effort.

 Rachel: How can we engage more people in improv? 

 Bev and Ian: Just keep doing it and spread the word. The revolution will be improvised!

 Rachel: What have you learned about people and life in general from being an improv community hero?

 Bev and Ian:  People are mostly good and life is a series of short-form improvs. Take each scene at a time and don’t beat yourself up – because the next scene is coming up in a minute.

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