Sunday, 18 November 2012


Here at the Happy Zone blog we are constantly on the look out for new and exciting things that make us happy. New music, new boutique shops, places to go, interesting independent films and other innovative and unique events and happenings. We were extremely excited a few months back when we heard about a brand new fringe theatre company in Guildford, England, the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company which was set up by musical director Niall Bailey and West End star Nick Wyschna.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Wyschna recently and spoke to him about the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company's upcoming production of emerging playwright Tom Well’s debut play “Me, As A Penguin” coming to The Star Inn, Guildford this December.

Nick Wyschna Interview

Q. First of all, what can you tell our readers about yourself and your career in music and theatre?
A. Firstly I’d like to say thank you for taking the time to have a chat with me, I am so excited about Guildford Fringe Theatre Company and I blooming love chatting about it!
My performing story started a long way back when I was 14 and facing the decision to either sing for a music class exam or play an original composition... this wasn’t much of a choice for me (Niall will tell you my talents do not lie in writing music!) so I got up and reluctantly sang ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael to a tape cassette backing track! To my surprise everyone went quiet, which I didn’t know then was a good thing, and after a good few seconds started applauding. Not only was this the start of my singing career but it was also the moment that I found a way of showing off at school without ending up outside the Headmasters office, good news all round really. The head of music at Guildford County School and now one of my closest friends, Caroline Gale, took me under her wing and gave up so much of her free time with training my voice from that day on, I will always owe her so much and am thankful for her time and her friendship always.
After turning down my place at Art Educational School in 2002 due to my Dad passing away I finally started professional training at the Royal Academy of Music in 2005 where I graduated with a Post Graduate Diploma in Musical Theatre. My first job was in St Ives in a musical production show and I haven’t looked back since, touring in Mamma Mia!, South Pacific, The 12 Tenors, Dancing Queen and also working in the USA in a new musical Scandalous! and travelling the world on a cruise liner among other smaller contracts and gigging.

Q. Tell us some more about the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company and how it began.
A. It began out of a much smaller idea to be honest. I was coming to the end of my contract with South Pacific and getting the usual chest pains and nasty ulcers at the thought of being out of work when I thought, why don’t I make my own work and produce a show that I could be in. I have been talking about producing theatre for a while now and I also have said that I don’t want to tour for a bit so why not put something on in Guildford (where I have bought my first place and have always lived)?  The Last Five Years came into my head and so did the girl I would ask to play the other lead role so now all I needed was a musical director that could coach myself and Daniella Gibb AND also play the music, which is not an easy task by any means! So I asked 3 or 4 of my friends and ended up with Niall.... haha only joking!!
I called Niall and asked him to come and have a look at the space that I had found and put it to him that I’d love to do a fringe production of the show. He said yes which was awesome, but the more we spoke about how cool the space was the larger the idea grew. After lots of chats and thoughts flying around we came up with Guildford Fringe Theatre Company. So now I wasn’t only producing a one off 2 hander show but I was in full partnership and creating a company, now I definitely can’t be going off and touring!
The ideas that we have for the company grow every time we chat about it which is great. We are working on cementing the ideas we already have as well as thinking about the future; I really believe this is something that will work, commercially and artistically.  Myself and Niall have completely different backgrounds, away from theatre, and therefore bring different skills to the table which is so useful for a new company. Overall the whole experience so far is pretty damn electrifying and I can’t wait to keep moving forward.

Q. Why “Me, As A Penguin”?
A. Come and see it and you will find out for yourself!
As soon as I started reading the play I couldn’t put it down, to be that gripped just reading the thing makes me so eager to see it brought to life on stage. Not ONLY on stage but in a completely intimate venue where you are so close you can’t help but be wrapped up in the piece. I am not going to give the story away but I will say that everyone will be able to relate in some way to the play, stepping away from where you feel comfortable, trying something new and finding your identity is something that everyone goes through at some point in their lives. Oh that all sounds very serious, don’t forget there is someone dressed as a Penguin in it to, why wouldn’t we want to produce this gem!!

Q. What sort of audiences are you hoping to attract to this particular production?
A. Listen, we are still very new to the Guildford theatre scene, we just want people to know about us and know that what we produce is good quality stuff and therefore they will come back time and time again without having to worry about that side of things. A lot of what we will be putting on may not be well known so we want people to trust us that it WILL be great and to come and try something new. Like the first time mum makes you eat vegetables, but it doesn’t take years to come round to the idea of liking them (bad example?!).
Moving on, this production is aimed at people who love theatre, they maybe haven’t experienced it in the back of a pub but this is their chance. It’s December so if you fancy a night out at the theatre that isn’t Pantomime then this is a cracking alternative, still plenty of laughs but not so many thigh slaps!

Q. Your performance in the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company’s production of “The Last Five Years” received rave reviews; how does it feel now that you are just wearing the producer’s hat and not having to perform in “Me, As A Penguin”?
A. Amazing! I am still performing when I wear my other hat so I don’t feel like I am missing out. I do however feel a lot less stressed out. Niall will feel the same I am sure after being musical director and producer as I was actor and producer, it is very nice and also very important to be able to separate the two professions. To be producer means to a large extent you are not in the creative group and this means you can have a far more objective eye over what is going on without getting caught up in your own performance. Our job is to choose the play, put in place a strong and talented team and then sell the show while supporting the cast and creative team; this is much easier to do when you are not in the show yourself.

Q. What’s next for the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company?
A. We have a busy year ahead of us for sure. This is our last run of a show that will only last a week for a start, we are doing a month in February/March time as well as 2 or 3 other productions through-out the year. On top of this we are going to be running Guildford Fringe Theatre Festival for the month of July which will include all elements of the arts, from theatre to poetry and live music to new writing workshops. This is a massive deal for us and we are already in preparation stage for this mammoth task, this alone is a reason be joining our mailing list so that you are first to hear about what’s going on and where. Get onto our website and sign up, 

Q. Where do you see your company in five years’ time and what would you like the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company to have achieved over the next five years?
A. The most visible growth for Guildford Fringe, I think, will be the festival. Even just speaking about it now it seems to grow faster than we can form the words to describe it so in 5 years time I would image it being a huge event for Guildford with theatre companies and acts coming from far and wide to be involved.  Guildford is my home and I absolutely love it here, I always see us producing here and adding to the arts scene in the town. Saying that we also have plans to run our first UK tour in 2013 so watch out for Guildford Fringe Theatre Company’s productions coming to a town near you!
So in five years time (well much less than that really) I see a constant flow of theatre and festivals coming out of the company, a nice growing cycle.

Q. Any final thoughts or comments for our readers?
A. I would just like to thank you again for your time and interest in Guildford Fringe Theatre Company.
This is not a radical new idea what we are doing but what is hugely thrilling is the energy that comes from mine and Niall’s conversations about the future, you will struggle to find a more passionate pair who thrive off each other’s energy and drive.
As with all new companies two things need to happen, the producer needs to deliver and the consumer needs to support. I promise to keep our side and as we grow I am looking forward to thanking each and every one of you for your support, this is going to be enthralling  journey.

Me, As A Penguin
3-8 December, 7.30pm
The Back Room,
The Star Inn
Quarry Street
Tickets £12.50 (£10 for concessions) available from the Guildford Tourist Board on Guildford High Street, by calling 01483 444334 or online at:

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