Charlie Lawson recalls how he had to be helped off stage after suffering mini-stroke

Charlie Lawson speaking on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday morning
Charlie Lawson speaking on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday morning

Northern Ireland actor Charlie Lawson has revealed how he was back at work just two days after suffering a mini-stroke while performing on stage earlier this month.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast today, the Enniskillen-born actor became emotional as he recalled how he had to be helped off stage by one of his co-stars during a performance of ‘Rebus - Long Shadows’ in Edinburgh.

Actor Charlie Lawson pictured outside the Europa Hotel in Belfast. Archive picture by Stephen Hamilton /Presseye.com

Actor Charlie Lawson pictured outside the Europa Hotel in Belfast. Archive picture by Stephen Hamilton /Presseye.com

Lawson, best known for playing Jim McDonald on ITV soap Coronation Street, said he could hardly see co-star Cathy Tyson, and thought fellow actor John Stahl was messing about by reciting lines from a different play.

“First night in Edinburgh. Packed house. Second half, Cathy (Tyson), John (Stahl) and myself were on stage. There’s a 35-page scene, the climax of the piece, and I was looking at John and I was aware very quickly something was wrong,” he said. “I went deaf. The colour changed - my vision changed.

“I remember moving to where I should have been, and there was a piece of me that knew something was wrong.

“And then big John just put his arm around me and said, ‘Come on big lad, off you go’.”

He told the King’s Theatre audience on October 8 he thought he was going to faint, according to a review in The Edinburgh Evening News, and was replaced by understudy Neil McKinven for the rest of the show.

Lawson went backstage and said he felt fine within 20 minutes, but scans the following day revealed that he’d suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA) – a brief episode of neurological dysfunction caused by loss of blood flow in the brain.

Lawson, who is now back on tour in ‘Rebus - Long Shadows’, told BBC Breakfast’s Louise Minchin and Steph McGovern he feels “very well”. But the former Campbell College pupil revealed that he’d suffered the mini-stroke shortly after being diagnosed with exhaustion.

He said the doctor asked him if he would consider pulling out of playing Ian Rankin’s detective Rebus, but responded that he would “feel like a chicken” if he did.

But he advised viewers who may be in a similar position to “listen to your alarm bells”.

“I haven’t had time to deal with it,” he said. “I haven’t had time to sit down and think because two days later I was back on stage. I need to sit down and think about it.”

He added: “It is a great show and Ian loves it, which is the key to all of us. We’ve got four weeks to go, and then I’m going on holiday.

“Celebrities can whinge a lot but I’m not like that. I don’t whinge, but I knew I was exhausted and I know I’m exhausted and when I finish this it’s up to the Highlands for me. No signal, no phone, two dogs and my beautiful [wife] Debbie, who’s looked after me.”

• For help and advice about stroke log on to www.stroke.org.uk or call the helpline 0303 3033 100.