laverty-meatballsI came across another book called Instant Confidence. I found it one day browsing in the Self Help section, (which is where I think the character Meatballs came to mind) but it should have been in Comedy. I had imagined Big Eric just appearing one day to little Eric by his cut out poster, but when I came across the ‘Possibility Generator’ it did make me laugh out loud. ‘Now, go over to your role model and float into their body and synchronise with their posture. See through their ears and feel how confident they feel.’ I could just see little Eric scoring that goal against Sunderland. I sensed this might make for a terrific scene for the postmen and Meatballs. The actor John Henshaw and his fellow stand-ups were brilliant and made it their own.  And all credit to the author of the book for letting us take the piss so much.

I spoke to several pals in Glasgow who are health professionals who spoke at length about their work. I also met a Doctor Thedor Mutale, a psychiatrist who often did assessments for the police if someone was detained in a moment of crisis similar to Eric’s. In addition to all the usual questions about self care, about suicide – and a real plan to carry that out, not just the general inclination, Thedor often asked a question that really fascinated me.  ‘Have you ever done something you are ashamed of?’  That question went round my head for days and opened up all sorts of doors into Eric’s past.

I also spoke to several people about treating panic attacks, and one person in particular who was incredibly open and insightful about his own experiences. I also met many impressive people through the Hearing Voices Network who were incredibly generous with their time and eloquent about their lives.

Eric Bishop is not based on any one of the above, but somehow getting the terms of reference in my head is really important on how to pitch the character at a precise spot. At least it gives me many more choices when I come to write. Eric is a complicated character.  Although he’s obviously fragile, tells lies, hides, can’t say ‘No’- unless it’s in French -  and in danger of a total breakdown, he does have reserves of strength and courage. I thought Steve Evets played the contradictions beautifully. There is not a moment I don’t believe him. I am of course not objective, but I think it is one of the best central performances I have seen in years.

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