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Standing up with Guildford Fringe director Nick Wyschna as festival celebrates fifth anniversary

PUBLISHED: 11:12 21 July 2017 | UPDATED: 11:12 21 July 2017

Festival director Nick Wychsna in his element

Festival director Nick Wychsna in his element

Archant

How time flies when you’re having fun! It may be a cliché, but for the Guildford Fringe team it rings true as they celebrate their fifth anniversary festival with a bumper year of vibrant theatre, comedy and a sprinkling of magic. Tinx Newton catches up with festival director, Nick Wychsna, to discover what’s in store

Nick with Charlotte Bateup, the Mayoress and Mayor of Guildford, and Amanda Masters Nick with Charlotte Bateup, the Mayoress and Mayor of Guildford, and Amanda Masters

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2017

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Having started the festival five years ago knowing, as he says, “absolutely nothing”, it’s been a stellar rise for Guildford Fringe and its director, Nick Wyschna.

What Nick lacked in festival directing experience at the start however, he more than made up for with his passionate belief in the concept – and it didn’t hurt that he was already immersed in the performance world, having developed a keen interest in musical theatre as a boy. “While I was at Guildford County School I fell in love with singing, with performing,” he says. “It felt like I’d found something that enabled me to be myself.”

Encouraged by his teacher to further his vocal talents, he gained a place at the Royal College of Music, where he studied musical theatre. He went on to enjoy success both in London and touring theatre productions, such as South Pacific, Mamma Mia and Scandalous the Musical, before returning to Guildford to set up shop.

“Guildford’s my hometown,” he says. “My mum’s here! When I was working away, I always missed it and I knew I’d come back to the town I know and to the people I know. When I was starting up the festival I could always rely on my family and friends to come to the shows, which gave the performers great support and also spread the word.”

Breaking the barriers

The Guildford Fringe Theatre Company was set up in 2012 and he has never looked back.

“It became apparent that small theatre companies were struggling to find affordable performance spaces to hire, so the concept of creating the Fringe Festival sprang from the financial barriers they were facing,” says the ambitious 33-year-old. “I didn’t know if there was demand for a Fringe Festival around Guildford, so we were cautious at first. We programmed very carefully, with people we already knew, so we were confident the acts would be good quality, and we only featured one venue – The Back Room of The Star Inn – to reduce the risk and limit any potential financial losses.”

Five years later, the Fringe is hosting 130 events in 12 different venues, with two great new spaces at Guildford Harbour Hotel and Tudor Antiques – and Nick can’t wait to get back on stage himself.

After a sell-out last year, he will perform in Miscast Musicals with Joanna Kirkland and Nick Tudor, bringing all the classics from the West End and Broadway. This gig will raise funds for the Jack Wynschna Foundation, which was set up in memory of Nick’s father and gives bursaries to those who are keen to achieve professional theatre training but cannot raise the funding.

Nick’s passion for performing and his ability to share the joys of music and theatre is evident. His ethos remains the same, to offer affordable theatre for all.

“Guildford is so lucky with the huge variety of art and culture we have here,” he says. “I hope the festival offers something for everybody. We keep the participants’ entry fees low and, on average, the tickets cost £7, which encourages people to book something they wouldn’t normally see.”

It’s the driving concept of Fringe Festivals worldwide: encouraging grassroots, affordable, small-scale theatre and arts. It’s so exciting to see it flourishing on our doorstep.

• Guildford Fringe Festival 2017 runs throughout July, featuring 130 events across 12 Guildford venues. For tickets and more information, visit guildfordfringefestival.com

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My Favourite Surrey

Pub/restaurant: The Harbour Café Bar & Grill - the freshest food in town!

View: Standing at Abbott’s Hospital looking down High Street with The Mount and St Nicholas Church in the background.

Place to visit: RHS Garden Wisley with my mum.

Place to relax: The steam room at the Nuffield Health Gym and Spa, Guildford… daily!

Arts venue: Guildford Gag House Comedy Club at The Back Room of The Star Inn, Guildford.

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HISTORY

Eduard Eady’s Guildford

Monday July 3, 7.30pm

The Keep, Castle Street

Eduard and his camera captured a vanishing Guildford: here he shares his personal record of old photographs, from then to now, discussing the incredible changes with you. Many will likely recognise Eduard as he spent the whole of his working life at Guildford’s Robert Dyas. He is, without doubt, a true Guildfordian.

THEATRE

The Women of Lockerbie

Tuesday July 18, 7.30pm

The Back Room of The Star Inn, Quarry Street

This deeply moving, powerful play presents a meeting between the parents of a young man, who died in the crash and the women of Lockerbie, seven years later. Both are trying to come to terms with what has happened to them in different ways. This gripping piece of Fringe Theatre is brought to you by back2front theatre, based at Christ Church in Guildford.

COMEDY

Paul Kerensa:

Navelless Gazing

Thursday July 20, 9pm

The Back Room of The Star Inn, Quarry Street

Award-winning comedian Paul Kerensa has no bellybutton. Hear tales of bellybuttonlessness, step-bladders and how a bottle can save motorway toilet stops (so long as you save the lid). Celebrated as the comedy writer of BBC’s Miranda, Not Going Out, Top Gear, TFI Friday, The Now Show and Dead Ringers, Paul studied at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford and Guildford School of Acting.

MAGIC

Danny Buckler’s Comedy and Magic Chat Show

Saturday July 15, 8pm

The Electric Theatre, Onslow Street

Comedian, raconteur and sleight of hand aficionado, Danny Buckler brings his unique magic chat show to his hometown as he presents three of the biggest names in UK magic: Ben Earl, Kieron Lefever and author of the acclaimed Shadow Magic novels, John Lenahan. Danny made his TV debut with Channel 4’s Danny Does Tricks and went on to host the BBC One Saturday night prime-time show The Secrets of Magic. He has toured with Victoria Wood and performed private functions for the likes of Liam Gallagher, Bruce Willis and the Sultan of Brunei.

MUSIC

Majella Yorston:

A Song or Two

Sunday July 30, 7.30pm

The Keep, Castle Street

Come and celebrate the fifth anniversary of Guildford Fringe Festival with Guildford-based musician Majella, who has performed at all five Guildford Fringe Festivals. With material ranging from folk to rock ‘n’ roll, a velvety voice, an engaging performance style and, of course, her trademark guitar, the final event of this year’s Festival will be one to remember.

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