Radio review: A pen pal story to warm the heart

Nuala McCann

Pen Pals Radio Ulster and Radio 4

Suspicious Minds Drama, Radio 4

Proinsias O'Coinn made a programme in 2015 called Lacrimosa –about trying to find a work of art that could bring him to tears. He couldn't cry.

Donna lives with her husband in Belgium. She heard Proinsias over the airwaves. She wrote and told him about a certain sculpture that had reduced her to tears.

Proinsias had struggled with his “big reveal”... his sexuality – he likes both women and men. Donna's stepdaughter is gay.

So Donna wrote to him and, in a world where writing is so often clipped, to the point – here were two strangers who became that quaint old fashioned thing ... pen pals.

The pair share another painful bond – both had the same type of cancer. Proinsias had his tumour removed before he even knew he had it, but Donna is living with a terminal diagnosis.

This is a love story ... the story of a journey to Rotterdam to meet a special pen pal; a story peppered with laughter, pitted with tears. It was a story to warm the heart.

The trouble with the afternoon play is that it disrupts the afternoon.

If you listen in the car, you have to sit there after you have arrived, just to hear the end.

So it was with the story of Mark and Fran. They are caught in a trap, they can't go on ... so they book a time travel holiday to rediscover that old black magic called love.

Enough with the stolen song lyrics, it was a fun trip to Ancient Rome where a not-very-funny thing happened in the Circus Maximus and all the blood n guts did for Mark's stomach.

Then there was just time to nab a deckchair on the Titanic or to time travel back through various points in your relationship and realise you weren't such a catch at all....

This afternoon play came with side helping of smiles, a sprinkling of soul searching and Elvis.

Would their love survive, would it, would it not? The engine idled and I sat in the driveway just waiting to find out.

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