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.


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

Casting announcement: meet the cast of Yellowman

We’re excited to announce casting for Yellowman, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama directed by Genesis Future Director Award winner Nancy Medina. The cast includes Christopher Colquhoun as Eugene and Nicola Hughes as Alma. More information about both are below.

Christopher ColquhounChristopher Colquhoun makes his Young Vic debut in Yellowman.
Recent theatre includes: The Lion King (West End); The Believers (Tricycle Theatre); The Colour Purple (Menier Chocolate Factory); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Regents Park Theatre); Britannicus (Wilton’s Music Hall); Happy Now? (Hull Truck Theatre); Saint Joan (National Theatre); Moby Dick, King Lear, The Tempest (RSC) and Five Guys Named Moe (Theatre Royal Stratford East)
Television includes: Absentia, Ransom, Vera, Midsomer Murders, Flowers, Law and Order, The Crash and Missing
Film includes: iBOY and Oh Happy Day

Nicola HughesNicola Hughes returns to the Young Vic after appearing in Simply Heaven.
Recent theatre includes: Caroline, Or Change (Chichester Festival Theatre); Porgy & Bess (Regents Park); The Color Purple (Menier Chocolate Factory); Marilyn & Ella (Theatre Royal Stratford East); Porgy & Bess (Savoy Theatre); Blues In The Night (Birmingham Repertory Theatre); Fosse (Prince of Wales Theatre); Chicago, Damn Yankees (Adelphi Theatre) and Tommy (Shaftesbury Theatre)
Television includes: Mount Pleasant, Doctors, The Royal Bodyguard, Parents Of The Band, Rock Rivals, Jonathan Creek, Heartburn Hotel and Trial & Retribution

Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith is directed by Nancy Medina, the recipient of the Genesis Future Directors Award 2017 and runs 22 November – 2 December in the Young Vic’s Clare studio.

Tickets for Yellowman are now sold out but those wishing to see the show are welcome to join the returns queue at Box Office from 7.00pm. More information here



★★★★ “Erin Doherty emerges as one of the year’s great discoveries” | My Name is Rachel Corrie reviews

The reviews are rolling in for My Name is Rachel Corrie, directed by JMK Award winner Josh Roche and starring Erin Doherty as Rachel Corrie.

YV-RachelCorrie-176-lightened (2).jpg

Erin Doherty as Rachel Corrie in My Name is Rachel Corrie. Photo by Ellie Kurrtz.

“Erin Doherty emerges as one of the year’s great discoveries with a stunning performance” 

The Guardian | Read the full review

★★★★ “Erin Doherty is riveting as Corrie…humorous and humanising” 
The Stage | Read the full review

★★★★ “Josh Roche’s brilliant staging” 
WhatsOnStage | Read the full review

Erin Doherty in My Name is Rachel Corrie at the Young Vic. Photo by Ellie Kurrtz (4).JPG

Erin Doherty as Rachel Corrie in My Name is Rachel Corrie. Photo by Ellie Kurrtz.

My Name is Rachel Corrie runs in the Clare until 26 Oct with best availability on 25 Oct matinee. Find out more about the show and read what audiences are saying so far in our Storify round-up.

Erin Doherty in My Name is Rachel Corrie at the Young Vic. Photo by Ellie Kurrtz (6).JPG

Erin Doherty as Rachel Corrie in My Name is Rachel Corrie. Photo by Ellie Kurrtz.


James Menzies-Kitchin was a theatre director of thrilling promise. The JMK Trust was founded in his memory to give practical learning opportunities to young theatre directors of similar ability and vision. The JMK Award allows one such director a year to stage their own production of a classic text.

The JMK Award 2017 is kindly supported by Philip Hooker, The Arts Patrons Trust, The Martin Bowley Charitable Trust, The Garrick Charitable Trust, The Fidelio Charitable Trust, the Young Vic and all our individual supporters. Patrons: Dame Judi Dench, Baroness Howe, Sir Ian McKellen and Tom Morris OBE (Founding Chair) Registered Charity No. 295080

Reflecting on Zimbabwe | Unified Women

Unified Women artwork. Orange background with silhouettes of two young women standing outside holding hands.

Written 2,500 years ago by Aeschylus The Suppliant Women is one of the world’s oldest plays and yet speaks to us through the ages with startling resonance. Seven young women aged between 18-25 from Lambeth and Southwark travelled to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe this September working in response to Ramin Gray’s production, with the YV Taking Part team and director, Sasha Milavic Davies. Zimbabwean writer, Noma Damasane, aka. Lady Tshawe worked with the group to produce a piece of work which reflected the shared experiences across the two groups of women, regardless of their geography or local cultures.

We asked some of our group of women to document their “once-in-a-lifetime experience”, sharing their observations and best moments from their cultural exchange which started with one forgotten passport 😉

Monique takes it from here…

The hardest thing about travelling for me is packing, I can do it quickly but I’m never sure I’ve packed the right things. However, whether your top to bottoms ratio is right means nothing if one forgets to pack the most important item: the passport. Yes ladies and gentlemen I forgot my passport! My mother would be so ashamed.

We arrived in Bulawayo to be greeted by the warm sun of Zimbabwe, Josh of the Nhimbe Trust and two of our cast mates, Sta and Musa, with big smiles. 

After being welcomed by the lovely Noma (our writer) we were treated to an amazing performance Khaya Arts plus the coolest band I’ve ever seen, The Afro Queens. Don’t think that just because we were guests and had been travelling for a whole day we could just sit back and enjoy the show. No! We formed a circle and it was dance time. I’m proud to say I have a really good sense of rhythm and I can throw it down on any given night but the Zim Girls brought something completely different to the table. The way they and the performers of Khaya Arts move is incredible! I have to learn.

Anasthasia from our London group also talked about the huge welcome they received and the early experiences in Bulawayo and further afield… 

My official introduction to the Zimbabwean girls felt like a huge party where the UK girls and I were the guests of honour. We were greeted with such amazing performances, with the most energetic being an amazing stomp dance act by Khaya arts showing us the natural rhythm that the Zimbabweans had to offer. With the food being similar to the African food I had back in the UK, Zimbabwe started to feel a little more like home.

Cultural learning was a key part of this experience where I learnt about both new and old cultural traditions from the Zimbabwean girls, museums, art galleries and heritage sites. There was even a talk by Pathisa Nyathi, one of the most respected historians in Zimbabwe, about the spirituality of the Shona and Ndebele people as well as traditions surrounding marriage; a talk which almost felt like an exact mimic of Danaus speech to his daughters on the same topic. One line that really stood out for me from Pathisa’s speech was “As it is above, so is below”.  It summarises African spirituality and what made an African African; the conservation of the human race and life on earth. This powerful ancient mission of African people makes me want to understand more about my own culture and heritage before colonisation; to understand the rich history of my nation.

Looking back on how Sasha and Noma developed their work, Monique reflected on how it helped her find her own voice…

Last week we shared with each other our own personal stories, whether they were about us or women we knew; we bared parts of ourselves that we probably didn’t expect. To say it was emotional is an understatement. I feel privileged to have heard those stories and I trust these women with the sharing of mine.

Probably because of the gravity of such a moment, I didn’t think about how it relates to our project. Turns out Sasha and Noma intended to use some of our experiences in our performance, in other words, mine. I was shocked. I never felt my story was worth telling in the first place compared to the other girls, so for Sasha to use it and ask me to direct a devised piece about it was pretty mind blowing. It was difficult to do. Not only to direct my peers but to dissect my story and give it over to others is a challenge but it was made easier because the story was not personal to the others, so they could offer suggestions and build the piece with me with no holding back. It also helped that I had Tamoy play me and having Anasthasia play my mum was inspired casting, she made me both laugh and cry.

I’m grateful to have worked on my story in that way. It taught that me that even little old me has something worth saying.

Anastasia later described how strong the bonds were between the group was after less than two weeks spent working together…

Departing from the Zimbabwean team was hard and upsetting but it made me realise just how strong the unity between the UK and Zimbabwean group was. Although we physically left the country, we weren’t truly saying goodbye. I like to think that no amount of land, sea or time can break apart the sisterhood made from two very different cultures of unified women formed this summer in 2017.

We shared some of the Unified Women performance in Bulwayo on the Young Vic’s instagram account. Here’s a short snippet of the sharing from our Insta story…

Keep an eye out for YV Taking Part sharing a video of the Unified Women project, and for their future workshops and productions on the YV’s Instagram and Snapchat as well as the YV Taking Part twitter.

The Unified Women project is supported by the British Council, Zimbabwe.
Many thanks to Josh, the Nhimbe Trust and our project partners, Africalia, Youth Contact Centre and Bluez Café
 for hosting us and making the trip so memorable.

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.


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.


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.

Fable | A story spanning three continents

Three countries 🌍
Three schools 🏫
Three weeks 📆

Three incredible groups of young people in London, Brooklyn & Cape Town worked with our incredible creative team to make Fable, a response to Isango Ensemble’s A Man of Good Hope.


Fable was Written by Luke Barnes, directed by Maddi Kludje and the film was directed and edited by Tristan Shepherd. The story was told in three parts and it explores young people’s perceptions of what it is to be a migrant. Fable was performed by three exceptional groups of children and teenagers in London, Brooklyn and Cape Town.

50 young people, 3 countries exploring their understanding of what it means to be a migrant today. An incredible achievement, a moving experience in such a short space of time. A lot of the young people had never even acted before and they created a whole film in just a few days! I am very proud of them!” – Maddi Kludje

The performers were from six schools, Sacred Heard School and Harris Girls Academy in London, McKinney High Schools and Juan Morel Campos in Brooklyn and Injongo Primary School and Liwa Primary School in Cape Town. You can find out more about the Cape Town schools on Isango Ensemble’s website. 

50 pages of script, over 50 kids and about 18 hours of filming. In many ways, Fable was a mission impossible for a filmmaker but Taking Part’s desire to create something special, their enthusiasm and believe allowed us to make a small miracle.” – Tristan Shepherd

A busy audience of friends and family sit in rows in front of a projector screen ahead of the London Fable sharing in the YV's Maria theatre

Fable sharing in the YV’s Maria theatre

Last week we shared the very first screening with our London casts’ friends and family at the Young Vic which featured this poignant final scene from Part three, filmed in Cape Town with local young people and Isango Ensemble.

Kwame Kwei-Armah announced as Young Vic’s new Artistic Director

The Young Vic is thrilled to announce that Kwame Kwei-Armah will become the new Artistic Director in February 2018.

A photo of Kwame Kwei-Armah taken outside the entrance to Baltimore Centre Stage

Kwame Kwei-Armah will become the new Artistic Director in February 2018

Kwame Kwei-Armah is an award-winning director and playwright and the outgoing Artistic Director of Baltimore Center Stage where he directed extensively. Directing credits also include New York’s Public Theater, Signature Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Repertory Theatre. His production of One Night in Miami at the Donmar Warehouse was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best New Play.

His works as playwright include One Love (Birmingham Rep), Marley, Beneatha’s Place (Baltimore Center Stage), Elmina’s Kitchen, Fix Up, Statement of Regret (National Theatre) and Let There Be Love and Seize the Day (Tricycle Theatre). Kwame was the Chancellor of the University of the Arts London from 2010-15, and in 2012 was awarded an OBE for Services to Drama.

Kwame will succeed David Lan further to the announcement that he would be stepping down in 2018 after 18 years in the role. Kwame will announce his first season of work as Artistic Director in the new year.

Kwame Kwei-Armah says: “To walk into the Young Vic is to come face to face with everything I love about theatre, so I am beyond humbled, if not a little scared. But to lead this magnificent theatre at this time in our nation’s history, after such a visionary as David, excites me beyond words. I can’t wait to get started.”

Patrick McKenna, Chair of the Board, says: “After meeting Kwame the panel was unanimous in its decision to appoint him as the next leader for this remarkable institution. Kwame’s wealth of experience directing, writing and working with the local community in Baltimore and beyond will translate beautifully to his new role leading the work on the Young Vic’s three stages as well as its pioneering outreach and education work in London.”

David Lan, outgoing Artistic Director, says: “The choice the panel has made is inspired. I welcome it wholeheartedly and will do whatever I can to support Kwame in the early days as he finds his own distinctive way to keep the Young Vic one of the great producing theatres of this country and the world.