News that Shayne Ward’s character is set to take his own life in ‘Coronation Street’ may have come as a shock to most fans, but the soap’s writing team have been laying the groundwork for months.
In a special hour-long episode that airs next week, Johnny Connor will be left reeling after finding Aidan’s body. In accordance with media guidelines, the suicide will not be shown on screen, nor will the body.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday (30 April), ‘Corrie’ producer Kate Oates explained that there have been hints at how Aidan’s mental wellbeing has deteriorated, saying that Shayne’s character had actually contemplated suicide before, unbeknown to viewers.
“There was an episode some time ago when Carla [Connor] said to Aidan and Kate, ‘I’m not very well and I might need a kidney transplant, you’re my best chance’,” she told HuffPost UK and other reporters. “The next day, Aidan went and intercepted a letter at Johnny’s house.
“As writers and storytellers, we’d got ourselves to a point which was that he was planning on [ending his life] that night, and he decided not to, he decided to hang on for Carla. It doesn’t mean he was better or ‘sorted’, just that he decided to hang on that little bit longer.
“Within that period of story, between him deciding to hang on and the episodes you’ve just seen [relating to Aidan’s suicide], we see moments of hope and moments of going back down, all skillfully, subtextually played by Shayne.”
Kate also revealed that the letter “may be found in subsequent episodes”, which could give Aidan’s stunned family some more answers.
When Shayne found out his character’s fate, he began adding subtle touches to his performance. “It’ll be interesting when [the storyline] is out there…” he said. “For people to start going, ‘Oh that’s why he did this, that’s what he did that’.
“After Aidan’s kidney transplant happened, his dad and sister left the room because I said ‘oh go home, I’m tired and you look knackered’, and then I broke down.
“That was one of the first time you saw Aidan really cry and everyone was like, ‘What’s gone wrong? Did the operation gone wrong?’.”
Working with the Samaritans and CALM on the storyline, the ‘Coronation Street’ team has ensured that the suicide is depicted sensitively, with the charity saying they’re impressed with the way that ‘Corrie’ has hinted at what is to come.
Lorna Fraser, Samaritans media advisor, said: “[It’s] showing things like Aidan, before he took his own life, saying to Eva that he feels she would be better off without him. We don’t talk about these things enough.
“This is how suicidal people can feel, they feel such a burden on themselves and their family, that people would be better off if they weren’t there. So highlighting those things and the devastation that’s caused. No family goes away from this feeling its OK, they’re left devastated with difficult feelings.
“Suicide is never down to one single cause, there’s lots of subtle complexity [in this storyline], lots of really important things that have been built into the character of Aidan, they’ve worked extremely hard on a delicate topic.”
The episodes focussing on Aidan’s death will also see David Platt begin to come to terms with events in his own life, as for the first time, he tells someone he was raped.
Explaining the decision to tell these parts of David and Aidan’s stories simultaneously, Kate explained: “David Platt is having a breakdown. We can see that he’s having a breakdown.
“He’s very unstable because he’s keeping this bottled up and if you were a viewer, you’d think, ‘If anyone’s going to do something to themselves it will be David’. He’s so volatile, look at how angry he is at the world. And actually, it’s the guy over the road that nobody expects.
“The challenges for Shayne was that so much of his performance was about subtext and subtlety and I just think he did that with such beauty and such depth.”
‘Coronation Street’ usually occupies two half-hour slots, with a 30 minute break in between, on a Wednesday. For these episodes, they asked ITV to grant them one continuous hour on the schedules instead.
“We wanted it to be as unbroken as possible because if somebody leaves halfway through, because they think they don’t want to watch the rest, they’ll miss our message,” Kate explained. “It was planned from the start that’s how we would tell the stories, and it’s the best way of emphasising the point we have to make.”
These ‘Coronation Street’ episodes air from Monday 7 May.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org