Bev Fox and Ian McLaughlin
Bev Fox and Ian McLaughlin formed the Suggestibles and School of Improv in 2003. They are our core teachers, and direct our programme.
Their careers span 30 years, working nationally and internationally as improvisers in theatre, TV, film and radio.
They have nurtured and developed improv as a training tool for professional actors, children in schools, for young people in colleges and universities, graduates, business professionals and corporate clients.
They are even more passionate about Improv today as they were when they made their discovery on a rainy night in London in 1988
Guest Improv Teachers
John Mawer has been performing and teaching improv for 20 years. Starting out as a stand-up in London, John found his memory appalling - then discovered he didn't need a script with improv! For 10 years he worked in the US, relocating to the North East UK 3 years ago, joining-the Suggestibles line-up on-stage and as a teacher in 2017.
Chris Price has been major part of the Suggestibles line-up since 2006. His acting career often takes him all over the globe on tour, but when in Newcastle Chris is back with The Suggestibles on stage and in class as a guest performer and teacher.
Tom Walton has been a member of the Suggestibles since 2011. With 10-years’ experience in theatre as a character actor and master puppeteer, he brings a uniquely physical and playful style to his performance and teaching, and is a joy to behold!
Our Improv Story
Bev and Ian's story begins in Camden in 1988, where they were starting out as young actors - without much of a clue where to start!
They almost didn't go as there was such a downpour, but they arrived soaking wet at an experimental improvisation workshop led by Chris Johnston (author, House of Games). It was a turning point in their lives. Overnight they found what has become their life-long passion.
Soon after, they performed in their first improv show at the Canal Cafe, where they were spotted by an agent and their careers took off. They formed their first improv group Greedy Soup and played a few small gigs around the UK (their first show was in their hometown at Newcastle University).
Throughout the 90s they performed with The Comedy Store Players in Leicester Square, Theatresports UK, long-form groups Spontaneous Combustion, Late at The Gate and Court in the Act, Eddie Izzard's One Word Improv, and Improbable Theatre's ground-breaking touring shows.
Pictured: Greedy Soup, Ian McLaughlin bottom centre, Bev Fox bottom right, with Joe Peters, Lee Tearell and Niall Ashdown 1989
As original members of the Impro Musical Company (formed by Alan Marriott and Anthony Ingle in 1989) the troupe were pioneers of the musical improv narrative form so popular today.
In '92 Bev and Ian produced their first show, The Impro Panto with the Impro Musical team, guesting improv legends Josie Lawrence, Mike McShane and Tony Slattery at the Donmar Warehouse and BAC.
The Impro Musical travelled the UK and Europe and was the first improv show to ever play a West End Theatre (Fortune, 1991). The show was renamed The Bootleg Broadway Show and condensed to a half-hour television format for ITV in '92 and then for BBC Radio 4 in '99.
Pictured: The Bootleg Broadway Show, Tyne Tees Promo 1992.
In another torrential downpour in 2000, Bev took a major fall down a flight of stairs, which left her with a broken back and put her in a wheelchair for over a year. Talk about a sliding doors moment! At the end of 2002, when she was just about walking again, the couple returned home to Newcastle for her to fully recover, and to start a new chapter in their lives.
They began their mission to put Improv on the Northeast map. In collaboration with Live Theatre they produced their first Improthon of many, with actors from Northern Stage and The Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2003, they held their first series of Improvisation Foundation classes (as School of Improv was then known) at the Actors Centre in Newcastle. When it closed, they continued as IF, and opened to the public as a new training ground for improvisers in Tyneside.
At the same time, they formed The Suggestibles improv comedy group, and a whole new improv scene emerged, or you could say exploded, in the Northeast. "Something of a phenomenon" The Crack
Bev and Ian won Arts Council funding to go to Canada to advance their skills with improv guru Keith Johnstone (author Impro, Impro for Storytellers). In 2005, they brought Keith to Newcastle for an open masterclass attracting international visitors to the region.
That same year they worked with maverick theatre director Ken Campbell to develop improv in Shakespearean verse and returned to London with their Suggestibles team at the Globe Theatre, playing to a 1500 throng, a career highlight. There, they shared their musical improv skills with Ken's London improv group School of Night, who went on to produce Showstopper!
A very exciting year followed, when Bev and Ian found themselves at the BAFTAs, as regional winners of a national short-film competition in 2007. That same year they won their first of four Royal Television Society Awards for their improvisational work on camera including Pour Quoi (such controversy on YouTube reached the New York Times).
Through Northern Film and Media, they received funding to present the 4 Hour Film Challenge for several years, first locally and then nationally, bringing actors and film makers together in improvised movie making.
In 2008, they revamped their original Xmas show from the 90s as the Suggestibles' Impro Pantso at Northern Stage, which now tours to sell-out audiences across North East theatres every Winter.
Since their return to Newcastle, Bev and Ian have developed Improv as a training tool in Schools, Colleges, Universities and for Corporate Business clients, working nationally and internationally.
15 years on, The Suggestibles continue their monthly residencies at the Cumberland Arms and The Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle, and School of Improv is the longest established training program of its kind in the UK.
Pictured left to right: 1) The Suggestibles original line-up Globe theatre promo 2005: Gary Kitching, Mark Labrow, Carl Kennedy, Bev Fox, Ian McLaughlin. 2) Ian and Bev at the BAFTAs 2007. 3) The Suggestibles current team backstage at Durham Gala with the Impro Pantso, Alex Ross, John Mawer, Rachel Glover, Ian McLaughlin, Carl Kennedy, Bev Fox and Tom Walton 2017.