INTERVIEW: The Suggestibles | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: The Suggestibles

From Saturday 27th July-Sunday 4th August, Newcastle Improv Festival presents nine days crammed with performances and workshops around comedy and theatre, song and dance, with the art of improvisation at the core. The first ever improv festival in the North East is brought to you by the Suggestibles – an established improv troupe of five actors and one musician who perform with no script – to celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary with a full-blown festival of fun and friendship.

Audiences can expect workshops and performances from incredible improv artists from across the UK as well as a brilliant array of actors from Newcastle’s booming improv scene, with heaps of activities for kids and families too. Highlights include shows from Spontaneous Wrecks, Open Heart and Couch Improv, as well as the Suggestibles themselves; join in a Pissed Up Podcast Q&A; take a laughter yoga class; get tips from the likes of Jason Perez and Stella Duffy on how to write and perform improve; or take part in a four hour film challenge, hip-hop or breakdance workshop and much more. The action takes place across The Cumberland Arms, Seven Stories, Alphabetti Theatre, Jury’s Inn and The Stand Comedy Club.

The faces behind the festival are Bev Fox and Ian McLaughlin, the founders of the Suggestibles. I caught up with Bev to find out more about the troupe and the festival.

How did you first come to improv?
When Ian and I moved down to London as aspiring actors, we happened upon an improv workshop in Camden in 1988. We met other actors there and within a few weeks, were performing in an improv show and had been signed with an agent!

What do you love about it?
The surprises! Every single show is unique. You never know what’s going to happen. Our shows are unedited, that’s the joy of live performance. You can’t go back and cut anything out. Nothing is wasted. Everything stays in. Including the mistakes, which are often the funniest bits. And I love the connection with my team and our audience. We all get to express ourselves and surprise each other in every single show.

What is improvisation to you?
It’s the spark of creativity. It is in the moment. It’s an original act every single time.

You formed The Suggestibles with Ian in 2003. Tell us about the troupe.
We’re all actors with one musician. There is a core group of six of us and three of us have been with the troupe right from the start. This current line-up has been together for the last six years and we have guest players too.

What do audiences love about an improv show?
Well, you have to be there on the night. It’s very live! There is no repeat. You only every get this one chance to see this particular performance. Before a show, some people worry that they are going to be asked to participate, but it’s not like that. The only audience participation is throwing out suggestions for the improvisation. People get really into that and we offer free tickets for the best suggestion of the night. In that sense, being an audience member at an improv show is not passive. The audience are involved in its creation and it’s their show as much as ours.

You moved back up to the North East 15 years ago. What have you been doing in that time?
We moved back up here after I suffered a serious back injury so initially, I spent a little time recovering. We came back fired up with a lot to give and fell in love with this city. It was vibrant and so different to when we’d left, and we’ve never looked back. We’ve been busy using improv in all sorts of ways – we get asked to do anything unusual, basically, anything that’s outside the box. We present shows and conference events, all sorts of projects and have produced short films and documentaries. We’ve also established the Suggestibles’ School of Improv and run weekly beginners, improvers and advanced classes at Jurys Inn, Newcastle.

How can you teach improv?
We create a supportive space where people have fun embracing their fears around performing and learn the underpinning skills and principles to help them stop judging and self-criticising, so they can break out of their shell and be more confident on stage or in life in general.

And so this summer, the Suggestibles are hosting the first Newcastle Improv Festival. Why is now the right time?
A festival is a great way to mark the 15th anniversary of the Suggestibles and also, the opening of the new Alphabetti space last year spurred us on, as it’s just the perfect hub for a festival of this kind. The vibe there is amazing. The improv scene here is bubbling, so it all came together to make now the right time.

What can audiences expect?
Come and see something full of fun! We can promise you lots of laughter and joy. We’re privileged to have so many incredible improv artists from across the UK joining us for the festival along with brilliant local artists too. It’s in the school holidays, so that we can have lots of activities for kids and families too.

Tickets for Newcastle Improv Festival are available from this link.



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