Wings: 11 Questions with Nick Gasson

Nick Gasson is currently starring in Wings at the Young Vic. His character is struggling to rebuild his communication skills after experiencing aphasia – a condition that affects the brain and leads to problems with speech and language.

We caught up with Nick to ask him these 11 questions . . .

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 1. Can you describe your character in Wings in three words?

Recovering stroke victim

2. What can the audience expect from this production that’s different to anything else they are likely to have seen before?

Wings is an extra-sensory experience!

3. What’s the most exciting thing about being part of this Young Vic production?

Working with such an amazing team of actors and crew

4. Emily Stilson was a wing walker. What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Going on the ‘tea-cups’ ride at the funfair!

4. How do you think this show will make audiences feel?

Apart from hugely impressed at Juliet Stevenson’s performance, I think they will feel like they have a better understanding of what goes on in the head of someone who’s had a major stroke

5. What has it been like working with Natalie Abrahami?

Wonderful. Her approach is always collaborative and the final results are finely detailed

6. What are you usually doing 10 minutes before the show begins?

Reading the papers!

7. What is your favourite play you’ve either seen, read or worked on?

There have been so many but in terms of taking part, playing the old tramp Davies in 3 tours of The Caretaker. Plays that really stunned me when I saw them include Bent and Angels in America, both at the National Theatre.

What was it that first got you interested in the theatre?

Writing and performing in play at primary school

8. What’s the funniest thing that happened to you recently?

I was in my local bar in Spain and Bobby Davro walked in. You have to be fairly old to know who he is, but he was a popular comedian / entertainer on TV in the 1980’s.

9. What’s the one thing you value most in life?

Got to be either health or the feeling of warm sun on your face

10. Who is your ultimate hero, and what would you say to them if you ever met them?

No longer with us: David Bowie. I’d say ‘Fancy a pint?’. Alive: Judi Dench. I’d say ‘Fancy a cuppa and a chat?’

11. If you could have been born in any era, which would it be and why?

I wish I’d been born in ’67 rather than ’57. So much changed for the better in those 10 years.

Wings runs at the Young Vic until 4 November. Juliet Stevenson stars as Emily, an aviator who suffers a stroke that destroys her sense of reality. Fragments of her life come together as she struggles to find her voice and sense of self.

Click here to book tickets from £10

 

Aphasia: Meet Nick Cann

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Nick Cann was chief executive of the Institute of Financial Planning when a stroke left him with severe aphasia.

Nick has been kind enough to share some of his experience of aphasia with us to raise awareness of this complex communication and language disorder. 

I was lecturing CFP students in Northampton when I collapsed. An ambulance was called and I was rushed to Northampton hospital.  My wife Jo and children were contacted and later learnt that I had suffered a major stroke which had affected the left-hand side of my brain. When I was admitted to hospital I had a scan of my brain and thrombalised. This was so important with my recovery as it helps to improve blood flow to the brain. I don’t remember much about the day of my stroke but from what I have been told my face dropped, my speech became slurry and I collapsed.

The stroke affected the right hand side of my body having no feeling or movement at all. I was moved to Oxford John Radcliffe specialist hospital due to concerns that swelling in my brain was not decreasing and operation may need to be performed. Luckily for me the swelling stabilised and I did not need to have surgery. The day after my family and close friends came up to visit. I found this very difficult as I could not communicate with my children Jemma 18, Rhys 16, Rebecca 15.

“Initially I couldn’t even say or write my name.”

Due to the stroke I suffer with aphasia and dyspraxia and although I can now read and write most things I really struggled with this, so reading newspapers, Facebook and Twitter became very frustrating and difficult. I couldn’t for weeks and weeks and had confusion with yes and no. Initially I couldn’t even say or write my name. I started saying words and using photos to help me say family and friends names.

nick1When I was home, after 7 weeks in hospital, I began to recover quicker although my speech was still a massive issue. APP’s (www.tactustherapy.com) I went to speech therapy classes weekly and speech improved although even now 4.5 years on I still struggle with words due to my dyspraxia and Aphasia

 

It has been a hard 4.5 years of dedication and determination but every day I am improving and will continue to do so with the support of the Stroke Association Wales, friends and family.

This blog was published in association with the Stroke Association. Click here to find out more and donate to support their work.


Wings is running at the Young Vic until 4 Nov. Emily, a fiercely independent aviator and wing walker, suffers a stroke that destroys her sense of reality.

Fragments of her life come together as she struggles to find her voice and her self.

Wings: 11 Questions with Kelle Bryan

Kelle Bryan is currently starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Her character Billy is struggling to rebuild her communication skills after experiencing aphasia – a condition that affects the brain and leads to problems with speech and language.

Kelle’s acting credits include The Exonerated (Charing Cross Theatre), Torn (Arcola Theatre) and My Fair Lady (Manchester Palace) but she is perhaps best known as a member of the girl group Eternal.

We caught up with Kelle to pick her brains. Check our her 11 questions below . . .

Kelle Bryan in Wings at the Young Vic theatre. Photography by Johan Persson.

 1. Can you describe your character in Wings in three words?

Feisty, fun and vulnerable.

2. What’s the most exciting thing about being part of this Young Vic production?

I love the hubbub of the central location, the history of the theatre and credibility of the venue. We’ve got an amazing cast, crew and creative team.

3. Emily Stilson was a wing walker. What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

I’ve done a few! Running the London Marathon, swimming with dolphins, being on Celebrity Love Island… deep sea fishing…

4. How do you think this show will make audiences feel?

I think you’ll leave with a much better understanding of aphasia from the patients perspective but you’ll also have a good laugh at the same time.

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Kelle in rehearsal for Wings. Photo by Johan Persson.

5. What has it been like working with Natalie Abrahami?

Natalie gives great notes that can uniquely change your whole performance. Quietly confident – she leads from a place of grace.

6. What are you usually doing 10 minutes before the show begins?

I’m usually found doing lovely little stretches, running through my lines and listening to some great retro tunes. You’ll hear me singing and dancing with the girls in the dressing room!

7. What is your favourite play you’ve either seen, read or worked on?

I was in a play called ‘Torn‘ at the Arcola. I just loved the role and the creative process.

8. What’s the funniest thing that happened to you recently?

There sometimes little mishaps in the show which have us in stitches.

9. What’s the one thing you value most in life?

My faith in God, the people He gave me to share it with – my two children and my amazing family. After the year I’ve had they have really been my inspiration.

10. Who is your ultimate hero, and what would you say to them if you ever met them?

I would love to meet Oprah Winfrey – I have so many questions…. “Who are you when the lights and cameras are off?”. I think she’s exactly the same.

11. If you could have been born in any era, which would it be and why?

I wouldn’t choose an era in history as is taken us so long to progress as a society. I’d probably stick to right now.

Wings runs at the Young Vic until 4 November. Juliet Stevenson stars as Emily, an aviator who suffers a stroke that destroys her sense of reality. Fragments of her life come together as she struggles to find her voice and sense of self.

Click here to book tickets from £10

Aphasia: Meet John Smejka

Taken with Lumia Selfie

John with his wife Paula


John Smejka was Head of Engineering at Anglian Water living in Lincolnshire when a stroke left him with severe aphasia. John has been kind enough to share some of his experience with us to raise awareness of this complex communication and language disorder. 

We spent Christmas Day in Lincoln and Boston hospitals, I had a terrible headache and couldn’t see from my left eye. It was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon the stroke hit me and I no longer had use of the right leg and arm and I couldn’t speak any words, not a word. I thought that was how it would be for the rest of my life, unable to work, play the guitar or speak.

“I thought that was how it would be for the rest of my life, unable to work, play the guitar or speak.”

While I was in hospital, I didn’t want many visitors, but my fiancée (Paula) my children and my parents visited. If I could talk, it would have been easier to have visitors. Talking is the key. When Paula visited we did therapy exercises, she pushed me for a ‘walk’ in my wheelchair, or she came on the bed for a TV watching cuddle – some things don’t change! When my parents visited, conversation was impossible, I couldn’t speak at all and they didn’t do anything except visit me, so had nothing to talk about. Eventually I told them they needed to visit me less often.

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John and Paula with family on their wedding day

When I came home from hospital, Paula had moved into my house, with her son (Cameron). Paula and Cameron had to be with me all the time, they helped me with my exercises and we learnt how to communicate together. My relationship with Cameron really started at that time, it is based on mutual interests and silly humour, it has perhaps been easier for Cameron to accept my difficulties as we didn’t know each other so well before my stroke.

It has been harder for some of my children to come to terms with my stroke, especially dealing with aphasia as it hides my feelings, knowledge and stories. The two kids I was closest to before my stroke have found this most difficult, whereas the other two, seem to have adjusted much better, one of them even says he feels closer to me now than he did back then.

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John, busy digging a pond in his garden

My relationship with Paula is still good (she is my wife now!), we used to spend hours talking, now we are quiet more often but she tries to work with me so I can tell her stories, ideas and feelings. It makes Paula really sad when she misses my ‘wise counsel’ at times of difficulty.

My social life has almost disappeared. The aphasia makes it so hard to chat, especially in large groups which is how I used to socialise. I know that my friends miss me and I feel bad that I don’t go out more but it’s just not as much fun anymore – I can’t help that.

This blog was published in association with the Stroke Association. Click here to find out more and donate to support their work.


Wings is running at the Young Vic until 4 Nov. Emily, a fiercely independent aviator and wing walker, suffers a stroke that destroys her sense of reality.

Fragments of her life come together as she struggles to find her voice and her self.

★★★★ “Mesmerising” | Reviews for Wings

Wings opened last night at the Young Vic and the reviews are coming in fast.

This stunning production by Natalie Abrahami stars Juliet Stevenson as Emily, a one-time fiercely independent aviator and wing walker who suffers a stroke that profoundly changes the way in which she sees the world.

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★★★★
“Mesmerising – Juliet Stevenson takes us to another plane”
The Evening Standard | Read the full review

★★★★
“A remarkable performance from Stevenson in Abrahami’s sensitive and daring production”
The Independent | Read the full review

★★★★
“Thrilling theatrical magic”
WhatsOnStage | Read the full review

★★★★
“A thrilling dramatic realisation – gloriously liberated”
The Financial Times | Read the full review

★★★★
“The unflinching authenticity that makes Wings fly”
City AM | Read the full review

David Emmings and Juliet Stevenson in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

“Stevenson deserves nothing but praise for her performance”
The Guardian | Read the full review

“Juliet Stevenson gives an extraordinary performance”
The Observer | Read the full review

“Juliet Stevenson is a transcendent force”
The Telegraph | Read the full review

“Dazzling – a fascinatingly different play”
Time Out | Read the full review

Wings runs until 4 Nov at the Young Vic. Tickets are available to book here.

Wings | Production Photos

Take a first look at the Wings production photos here. Juliet Stevenson (Hamlet, Mary Stuart, Happy Days) stars in Arthur Kopit’s tremendously powerful Broadway hit as Emily Stilson, an aviator and wing walker who suffers a stroke that destroys her sense of reality.

Wings runs at the Young Vic until 4 November with direction by Natalie Abrahami (Queen AnneHappy Days). Click here to book tickets now.

Juliet Stevenson starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

Juliet Stevenson starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

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Juliet Stevenson starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

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Lorna Brown starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

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Juliet Stevenson starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

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Emily Wachter and David Emmings starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

David Emmings and Juliet Stevenson in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

David Emmings and Juliet Stevenson starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

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Nicholas Gasson starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

 

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Emily Mytton and Emily Wachter starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

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Mary Sheen starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

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Kelle Bryan starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

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Richard James-Neale starring in Wings at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson.

Wings runs at the Young Vic until 4 November 2017 with direction by Natalie Abrahami (Happy Days). Click here to book tickets now.

See what audiences are saying about the show on our Storify.

Wings | Rehearsal Room Photos

We went behind-the-scenes inside the rehearsal room for Wings at the Young Vic. Juliet Stevenson takes on another extraordinary role, reunited with Natalie Abrahami following their hugely successful collaboration on Happy Days.

Click below to navigate the photo gallery

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Wings runs at the Young Vic from 14 Sept – 4 Nov.

Emily Stilson, a fiercely independent aviator and wing walker, suffers a stroke that profoundly alters the way in which she encounters the world.

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