Aphasia: Meet Nick Cann


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.


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

★★★★ “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.


“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.


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


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


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


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.


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



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


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


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


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.


Wings: Join us ‘In Conversation’ for a series of post-show talks

juliet-bannerWings runs at the Young Vic until 4 Nov. This production tells the story of Emily Stilson who once walked on the wings of aeroplanes until a severe stroke drastically alters the way she encounters the world.

We’re very pleased to announce that we’ll be hosting three post show talks exploring stroke, brain injury, neurological research and the staging of our production. These will give you the chance to listen in on an engaging discussion between our varied selection of panelists.

If you would like to attend these talks, come and see the show on the evening that the talk takes place.

Thursday 21 September
In Conversation with Arthur Kopit and David Lan

David Lan is a playwright, theatre director and social anthropologist. Artistic director of the Young Vic since 2000, he has produced more than 150 shows and directed, amongst others, A Raisin in the Sun, Doctor Faustus, The Daughter-in-Law, The Skin of Our Teeth, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and Blackta, as well as As You Like It in the West End.

Playwright Arthur Kopit is the author of Wings (Tony Nominee, Finalist for Pulitzer Prize). Current projects include Discovery of America, a play based on the journals of the Spanish conquistador, Cabeza de Vaca; and two new plays Secrets of the Rich and The Incurables. Mr. Kopit is a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Lark Play Development Center where he heads the Lark Playwrights’ Workshop.


Thursday 5 October
In Conversation with Juliet Stevenson and Lucy Maran and Sally McVicker

Juliet Stevenson returns to the Young Vic in Wings following her acclaimed performance in Happy Days.
Other theatre includes: Mary Stuart, Hamlet (Almeida/West End); The Heretic, Alice Trilogy, The Country, Other Worlds (Royal Court); Duet for One, for which she was nominated an Olivier Award for Best Actress (Almeida/West End); The Seagull, Private Lives, Hedda Gabler, Yerma (National Theatre), Death and the Maiden, for which she won an Oliver Award for Best Actress (Royal Court/West End); Les Liasons Dangereuses, As You Like It, Troilus and Cressida and Measure for Measure, for which she was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Actress and was awarded the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Actress (all RSC).

Lucy Maran is a speech and language specialist who works in the Acute and Community Stroke Team at the Royal Hospital London.

Dr Sally McVicker is a speech and language specialist who runs Aphasia Reconnect – a charity helping people with aphasia re-connect with life in the community.


Thursday 19 October
In Conversation with Natalie Abrahami, Dr Paul Jarman and Peter Rothwell 

Natalie Abrahami is a former Genesis Fellow and Associate Director at the Young Vic.
Young Vic credits includes: Happy Days, After Miss Julie and Ah, Wilderness! and the short films MAYDAY, The Roof and Life’s a Pitch.
Her credits as former co-Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre include: Vanya and The Kreutzer Sonata which later transferred to La MaMa, New York.
Other credits include: Queen Anne (Royal Shakespeare Company / Theatre Royal Haymarket), How the Whale Became and Other Tales (Royal Opera House), The Eleventh Capital (Royal Court), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Headlong) and Pericles (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre). Natalie was also an Associate Artist at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton between 2013 and 2015 and Associate Director at Hull Truck in 2012 where she directed Yerma and Hitchcock Blonde. Natalie won the James Menzies-Kitchin Award for Directors in 2005 for her double-bill of Play and Not I (Battersea Arts Centre).

Dr Paul Jarman is a Consultant Neurologist based at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. He trained at Oxford and London Universities before completing research and a PhD in molecular genetic aspects of movement disorders.  His subspecialist interests include Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders, acute neurology and use of botulinum toxin to treat post stroke spasticity. He  is interested in medical education and as Training Programme Director for neurology in London is passionate about training the next generation of neurologists.

Peter Rothwell is the Professor of Neurology at Oxford University and Director of the Centre for Prevention of Stroke and Dementia (CPSD), which he founded with funding from the Wolfson Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. His research group, which includes about 40 staff, studies the causes of stroke and strategies for improving prevention. Rothwell has published over 500 research papers and has been the recipient of many awards, including the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

Wings is generously supported by the Richenthal Foundation, Wellcome Trust and Cockayne Grants for the Arts, a donor advised fund of the London Community Foundation.

Casting announcement – meet the full cast of Wings

We’re thrilled to announce the rest of the cast of Wings directed by Natalie Abrahami, playing in the Main House from 14 September. Joining Juliet Stevenson is Lorna Brown, Kelle Bryan, David Emmings, Nicholas Gasson, Richard James-Neale, Emily Mytton, Mary Sheen and Emily Wachter. Find out more about them below. 

Lorna Brown 2Lorna Brown makes her Young Vic debut in Wings.
Recent theatre credits include:  Bodies, Torn (Royal Court); Things of Dry Hours (The Gate); The Oresteia (Almeida / West End); Little Light (The Orange Tree); Medea, Blurred Lines, Damned by Despair (National Theatre); Crowning Glory (Stratford East); Fear (The Bush); Clybourne Park (Royal Court / West End); Short Fuses (BOV) and Once on this Island (Hackney Empire / Tour).
Film credits include: The Lady in the Van, Taking Stock and Les Miserables.
Television credits include: Chewing Gum, Holby City, True Love and Outnumbered.


Kelle Bryan makes her Young Vic debut in Wings.Kelle Bryan BW
Recent theatre credits include:
 The Exonerated (Charing Cross Theatre); Cinderella (PHA); Rebellion (ODAC Ltd); The Extra Factor (No. 1 Tour); Torn by Femi Oguns (Arcola Theatre); Cinderella (Catford Broadway Theatre); The Brothers (The Drum Theatre / Hackney Empire); Bouncers by John Gober (Berkley Players); Jack and the Beanstalk (Channel Theatre) and My Fair Lady (Manchester Palace).
Film credits include: The Naked Poet, In the Mix and The Virus.
Television Credits include: Me & Mrs Jones, The Knot, The National Lottery, The Brothers and Glitter Ball.


David Emmings BWDavid Emmings makes his Young Vic debut in Wings.
Recent theatre credits: The Missing Light (The Old Vic); Emily Rising (Little Angel Theatre); Sleeping Beauty (Bristol Old Vic);The Elephantom (National Theatre / West End); Something Very Far Away (Unicorn Theatre / International Tour); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bristol Old Vic / Spoleto Festival USA),  Father Christmas (Lyric Hammersmith); The Confetti Maker (New Diorama Theatre) and War Horse (National Theatre / West End). Film credits: The Homeless Polar Bear, Sherlock Holmes and Alice. Short Film credits: Brilliant and Mime Poker.


Nicholas GassonNicholas Gasson makes his Young Vic debut in Wings.
Recent theatre credits include: Entertaining Mr Sloane, The Caretaker and  Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (London Classic Theatre / Tour); The Dumb Waiter, The Lover, The Picture of Dorian Gray (European Arts Company Tour); Talking Heads (Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds); James and the Giant Peach (No. 1 Tour); Season’s Greetings (Mill Theatre) and Pink for a Boy (Oldham Coliseum). Television credits include: Merlin, EastEnders, Doctors, Shadow in the North and Private Life of an Easter Masterpiece.


Richard James - Neale BWRichard James-Neale makes his Young Vic debut in Wings.
Recent theatre credits include: The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Globe); Watership Down (Watermill Theatre); Peter Pan (Regent’s Park Open Air); Othello (Frantic Assembly / UK Tour); Emil and the Detectives (National Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Tooting Arts Club); Charlotte’s Web (Derby Theatre); Pygmalion (Old Vic) and In Doggerland (Theatre 503). Film credits include: The Legend of Tarzan, Dragon, When I’m Gone, Nadya’s Circus and The Situation.
Television credits include:  Thanks For The Memories, Atlantis and The Insiders.


Emily Mytton 2 BWEmily Mytton makes her Young Vic debut in Wings.
Recent theatre credits include:  My Brilliant Friend (Rose Theatre);  Magic Flute (ENO);  Medea (Almeida Theatre); From Morning to Midnight, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, WarHorse  and His Dark Materials (National Theatre); The Empress and The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe (RSC); The Drowned Man and Tunnel 228 (PunchDrunk); World Cup 1966 and The Creation of the Violin (BAC); The Lesson (Theatre O); Beasts and Beauties (Hampstead Theatre); The Chimp that Spoke (David Glass Ensemble) and Red Ladies (Clod Ensemble).


Mary-Sheen BWMary Sheen makes her Young Vic debut in Wings. 
Recent theatre credits include: The Importance of Being Earnest (Politiker Productions); The Sonnet Walk (Globe); Losing It, A Fine Line and Courting Disaster (Soho Theatre); The Fastest Clock in the Universe (Sweetspot Theatre); Hyacinth Blue (Clean Break Theatre); 84 Charing Cross Road  and She Stoops to Conquer (both which she won Derby Evening Telegraph Actress of the Year, Derby Playhouse). Television credits include: Foyle’s War, Southcliffe, The Last Note, The Innocence Project and Dirty Filthy Love. Film credits include: United Strong Alone, The Last Upper, Barley Sugar and Skin Deep.


Emily Wachter BWEmily Wachter makes her Young Vic debut in Wings.
Recent theatre credits include: My Brilliant Friend (Rose Theatre); Swallow (Traverse Theatre); Britain’s Best Recruiting Sergeant, Caucasian Chalk Circle (Unicorn Theatre); Bedroom Farce (Salisbury Playhouse); The Humans (Avignon Festival); From Morning to Midnight (National Theatre); Rats’ Tales (Manchester Royal Exchange); Pride and Prejudice (Theatre Royal Bath); Doctor Foster (Menier Chocolate Factory) and Julius Caesar (RSC).
Television credits include: Pyschoville, Compulsion and Judge John Deed.
Radio credits include: Maiden’s Trip, Sagrasso, The Way We live Right Now and High Table, Low Orders.

Wings by Arthur Kopit, direction by Natalie Abrahami runs in the Main House of the Young Vic from 14 Sept – 4 Nov. Tickets available to book now