John River the main character of a new BBC Police Drama. He hears voices and sees visions. In this episode (4) his therapist invites him to attend a hearing voices group. A first for prime time TV perhaps?
“John River is a detective who lives among the dead and dying victims and killers from the murder cases he’s trying to solve.Through time spent with these imagined lost souls, River is able to piece together the truth behind the crimes he investigates.
The figures that drift in and out of River’s consciousness are ‘manifests’. They are vividly imagined by him through the great empathy and understanding he has for the damaged, the deranged and the disenfranchised.
He has a way of keying into people’s inner lives and tends to rely more on his instincts about the words and behaviours of the people he studies, than on procedural evidence. His own lonely and peripatetic upbringing has frozen him in a kind of isolation from the living.”
Abi Morgan is the Emmy award-winning writer of ‘The Hour’, ‘The Iron Lady’ and ‘Suffragette’. She explains the premise of her new drama for BBC One ‘River’ starring Stellan Skarsgard.
How did you come to address the subject of living with voices in your head?
I know from myself, I talk out loud. I’ve got children and they say to me ‘mummy, you talk to yourself all the time’. I realised how much I do have other people in my head and what a comfort they are to me. It’s not just about those who experience voices through mental health, it’s the voices we carry from our past, our future or experiences, that we manifest and I hope that’s something that an audience will identify with.
What is River about?
River is about a London based police officer who battles with his own mental health issues and when he loses his partner both personally and professionally it triggers a massive psychotic event which runs parallel to his quest to find the murderer. It’s really about a man who struggles in all forms of intimacy and relates better to those no longer living, to those voices in his head, than to those real relationships around him.
He’s a really good police officer and I think part of the reason is that his connectedness with his own mental fragility allows him to connect with the fragility of those abused, corrupted, disenfranchised, and the people around him that he comes into contact with in his work.
He’s insightful and I think for a man who does talk out loud, it’s what’s being spoken under the line that has been important to River; what’s not being said. In a way the manifests are manifestations of his inner conflict, they are all aspects of himself really.
Full interview here