Aromatherapy by Ed Harris

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BBC Radio 4, 2 April 2009
Robert (Martin Freeman) returns from a holiday in Thailand with a mysterious ailment; he cannot eat, sleep and feels perpetually displeased. He visits his aromatherapist Oliver (Nigel Anthony) who refers Robert to the local GP (Pip Torrens). Finding no cure, Robert speaks to his boss Lilly (Clare Corbett), who tells him she feels much better now that she has had a piece of her anatomy removed. At first we don't know what it is, but at length we discover that it is her soul. Eagerly Robert asks Oliver to perform the same operation; as a result he is transformed into a perpetual optimist with a happy-go-lucky outlook on life. However there is a down side: Robert becomes a less interesting personality - particularly in the eyes of his girlfriend Sophie (Polly Lister). Chastened by the experience, Robert wants his soul put back, but finds to his cost that reversal is impossible.
Basically a Paradise Lost story with a modern twist, Aromatherapy looks at male angst. Robert feels insecure about himself, particularly after his experiences of a foreign culture, and doubts his ability to communicate with the opposite sex. Playwright Ed Harris understands the psychology of his central character, but the female protagonists are sketchily drawn according to familiar stereotypes (Lilly the cynical broad contrasted with the charmingly naive Sophie). The play assumes - erroneously - that Robert's emotional crisis is fundamentally engaging, which would render him suitable for having his soul removed. Martin Freeman does what he can with the role, but the part refuses to come alive. The director is Chris Wallis.