Here Lies Henry: a chat with producer Paul Whiteley

Photo by Richard Hedger. The Here Lies Henry Team: Paul Whiteley, Jason Langley, Matthew Hyde

Having known Paul Whiteley for the best part of eight years I am by no means surprised by the fact that he has launched himself into the world of producing. I am also not surprised that he has chosen his own unique way of making that task even more difficult than it already is.

Currently in Manila covering The Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, we caught up with Paul to discuss starting a company, producing his first play Here Lies Henry and his current performing life.

Before we get to the interview, though, I would like to personally implore you: If you are interested in what Paul has to say, in Here Lies Henry or helping grow Turn Around Productions, then please go to their Pozible profile and donate. In order to receive the $3,800 already pledged they must raise a further $700 in the next 30 hours. So give what you can a help people create great theatre.

Now on with the interview.

So you’ve got your plate full at the moment. How are you fitting everything in?! 

Not totally full juuuust yet, ha.. I’ve got a few things in the pipeline… But yes, two words – time management! That’s pretty much the game. Oh and remaining healthy. It’s a balancing act of work, rest and play. And thank God for wifi!

Tell us about TurnAround Productions (TAP)?

TAP is a new independent production company, which I formed at the start of this year. I was always curious about producing and I have a work history that includes event management among other things. I love putting all the pieces of the puzzle together so, as this year was a bit light on with full time performing, I decided to capitalize and throw the idea out there to some friends in the industry. Of course the “light on” bit changed.

The company mission is “to create ongoing opportunities for arts practitioners to share their craft, skill and talent, whilst affording financial growth and stability”.

A bit of a mouthful, sure, but as a new independent theatre company, I didn’t want to automatically default to a “co-operative” business model. You know, cover the bills and hope for a profit which the members of the co-operative might be able to share in. The idea is to include covering the living costs of the artists whilst in rehearsals and show so that they can afford to devote their time to the project plus not come out the other end in the red. It doesn’t mean to say I’ve got buckets of money. It’s just more of an ideological approach.  Co-ops aren’t sustainable. Unless you’re really lucky, no one earns enough money to sustain doing co-op after co-op. Let alone actually have financial growth. The goal is to always keep compensation for the artists in mind when creating the initial budgets.

Actually we’ve been conducting a fundraiser to try to achieve the above goals. Been a brilliant response so far. With only 30 hours to go, we’ve only got some odd $700 to raise.

You’re performing in Phantom of the Opera in Manila at the moment. How is it going and how are you able to produce a play back in Oz at the same time?

Yer it’s “interesting”.. I fill almost every available pocket of time with something productive. The laptop comes with me to the dressing room and backstage. When I’m not on stage, I’m on the laptop. You can actually fit an incredible amount of work into 24 hours!

And yer, the show’s going great. It’s the first time POTO has been to Manila and it’s been full houses and standing ovations every show. I’ve got a relatively small ensemble plot which is apparently common for the Phantom understudies. The way the year started out, I certainly didn’t think I’d be doing POTO in Manila. And definitely didn’t think I’d be covering the Phantom. Funny what life can serve up.

Oh and for the budding producers out there, AND if you’re (God forbid!) producing from overseas – Skype and Viber are your best friend, and even more importantly, get a good, reliable team of people. You can’t do it all yourself! I’ve been incredibly lucky with my team. My Assistant Producer, Maria Lawrie, is worth her weight in gold. She’s a first timer like me but she’s a sole trader so she knows how to run a business and keep motivated when you’re a one-man show. It would’ve been handy to have a Production Manager, but the heads of our lighting, sound and audio-visual departments, are really pro-active. Of course our Director for Henry Lies Henry, Jason Langley, is a dynamo too, between us we wear a lot of hats and cover all the bases.

Okay, so I think now is a good time to ask about the play then. Give me the sales pitch for HERE LIES HENRY.

Incredible mindf__k of a play, amazing writing with an awesome twist, hot actor, brilliant creative team, hot-ticket venue in the hub of the Fringe, Here Lies Henry will give you bang for your buck! We promise you that this is the one to see.

And considering you open on Monday, are you ready for an audience?

Absolutely! Jason and Matt have worked very intensively for the past five weeks. They started doing full runs last. They had a few peeps in this week, a family and friends so to speak. By the responses I’ve received we’re in very good shape. “Love, love, LOVED IT!” and “Very thought provoking. I was exhausted at the end of the play. Good exhausted though”.

What are the plans for the future?

Well Henry has already been asked to the Midsumma Festival 2013 in Melbourne, and that was just after the Festival Director watched the promo video on launch day. So we were over the moon. Apart from that we want to get it to Edinburgh Fringe. Quite a bit of planning to do and hopefully (to get us over there) a successful Sydney Fringe. It certainly deserves it. It’s a magical piece.

And TAP?

Apart from Here Lies Henry I’d like to find a new Australian work and see what we can do to assist next year. I imagine it would be in a Fringe or Cabaret setting. Now that we’ve gone through the pain of “the first time”, I think we are much better placed for easy planning and hopefully government grants, etc. We’ll see.

Here Lies Henry plays as part of the Sydney Fringe.
Written by Daniel MacIvor
Directed by Jason Langley
Performed by Matthew Hyde

New Theatre, 542 King St, Newtown
Sept 17, 18, 19 @ 8pm
Sept 22, 23 @ 7pm
Bookings: / / (02) 9020 6980

For more info:


Matt Edwards

Matt is a past owner of AussieTheatre, working as digital director from 2011 to 2019. He is also a performer, most recently appeared in the Australian tour of Mamma Mia! and previously in the Australian/NZ tour of CATS and Enda Markey's acclaimed production of Blood Brothers. As well as performing Matt keeps himself busy in the digital side of the arts working with web design agency Emptyhead Digital

Matt Edwards

One thought on “Here Lies Henry: a chat with producer Paul Whiteley

  • Sat in on a rehearsal for Here Lies Henry yesterday and was blown away. Very clever play. It definitely is THE ONE TO SEE.


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