WHAT sort of emotions do you call up when you're playing a character alone at miserable at the top of a giant water tower?

How can you reveal a tragic sense of despair that comes with the trauma of job loss - and discovering the female you've been having sex with is pregnant?

And you're life has barely begun.

That's the task facing Paul James Corrigan this week when he appears alongside his River City co-star Frank Gallagher in new play, Butterfly.

Set in March 1987 and written by first-time playwright Anne Hogg, the backdrop is the closure of the Caterpillar factory in Uddingston.

Paul plays Jamie Cassidy, who is facing redundancy. In an attempt to get away from everything Jamie climbs the factory's water tower.

The black comedy role is a hugely demanding one.

However Paul has had the life experience to be able to relate to a man in difficulty.

Growing up in Bellshill, he coped with dyslexia and a stammer. Aged 17, he hated his job in a cutting the icing off cakes in a cake factory ("It was mindnumbing, and I stank of cake icing.")

But he walked out of the cake factory and into drama college.

"I didn't know what a monologue was," he recalls, with a wry smile. "I had never even been in a theatre in my life. But I knew acting was what I wanted to do.

"When I was a kid, I spent my time watching old John Wayne and James Cagney movies with my dad. (His parents had split up and Paul lived with his dad.) It was just something we did."

Paul adds, smiling; "John Wayne was rotten, but I still enjoyed the experience. Then I grew up watching Robert DeNiro, And something went into my head; 'I'd like to do that'."

Paul had his problems along the way - he was thrown out of drama college and then reinstated - but his talent shone through and he was cast in Black Watch, one one of the best theatre plays ever produced in Scotland. And with an amazing cast.

However, Paul had to pull out of the play. There were those who figured his misdeeds had resulted in the talented young actor leaving the production.

But far from it. He reveals there was a single reason why he took time off.

"My dad was dying at the time," he recalls, his voice soft.

"And the experience just wrecked me."

Paul rejoined the troupe in Leeds. " I had lost a lot of weight. I felt bad, but the rest of the boys were great and when I walked into the dressing room that night after the performance the rest of the guys applauded me. And I broke down in tears.

"Then when we went to New York, Michael Nardone (former River City actor) looked after me. He said 'Come stay with me, at my digs in Manhattan' and I did and I'll be forever grateful to him."

Paul was part of an international stage success, and was performing brilliantly on stage. But off stage, he was struggling to cope.

"I was so messed up, and Mike suggested I talk to someone. At first I rejected the idea, but then he fixed me up to talk to a bereavement counsellor. And it worked.

"I needed to hear what she had to say. And it made sense to go back to work with the boys. It made me focus."

He learned a great deal from the Black Watch experience.

"I learned about different cultures, different people, from New Zealand to New York, all over. I learned to become a better actor and a responsible adult."

Paul, who later went on to star in Gary: Tank commander, had a special relationship with his dad.

"He was my best pal. And he was just forty eight when he died.

"He was a great guitarist and he taught me. And he drank a lot, but somehow the drunker he'd get the better his guitar playing would be. I really miss him."

Paul's dad would have been delighted to see his son work on a play set in the area, Viewpark, in which he grew up in.

"I've been learning about the history of the area," he says.

"And what's also great is that Frank is from Coatbridge, and we know each other from River City. He's been telling me all about the plant, and what it meant to people."

Paul has shown his acting talent continually on screen, but what River City fans don't know is he's had to work that bit harder than other cast members.

But he's dealt with his dyslexia and conquered his stammer.

"My sight reading is terrible," he says grinning, "but for some reasons, once the lines are learned and in my head they stay there.

"And as soon as I learn my lines the words roll off the tongue. When I know my lines the stammer disappears."

Could he have believed he'd be sharing an Oran Mor stage - or appearing in River City - when he was working in the cake factory?

"Not a chance," he says in perfect flowing voice. "I'm very lucky, and I'm very grateful."

*Butterfly, Oran Mor, until Saturday.