Flaw in the Motor, Dust in the Blood by Trevor Preston

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BBC Radio 4, 25 November 2008


The first radio play by acclaimed television writer Trevor Preston had distinct echoes of other works about manic depression. The central character Thom (Rory Kinnear) cannot lead a normal life, being plagued by thoughts over which he has no control. On one occasion he imagines himself to be Jesus Christ: his girlfriend Lizzie (Janice Acquah) stays with him as long as she can, but eventually gives up the unequal struggle to help Thom lead a calm existence. He is eventually placed in a hospital, doomed to live a life of splendid isolation with only his thoughts for company. Preston chronicles his futile efforts to deal with them – for example, by creating a fantasy modelled on Randle P.MacMurphy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, where he makes a spectacular attempt to escape, only to be punished with a frontal lobotomy.


Eventually Thom takes the only feasible way out by committing suicide, and thereby restoring himself into Lizzie’s good books. The play ends with another fantasy sequence – presumably imagined beyond the grave – where Thom and Lizzie hold hands and walk together on a gloriously sunny day.


Flaw in the Motor, Dust in the Blood deals with the subject of manic depression in a calm, detached manner. Like Robert McCrum’s My Year Off – broadcast the previous week in the Afternoon Theatre slot – Preston shows how an individual’s suffering can often ruin their partners’ lives. One felt that Lizzie had no other choice if she wanted to preserve her self-esteem. The play was directed by Toby Swift.