Radio dramas can often be... I’m trying to think of a kind way of putting this. Oh, what the hell: boring is the word we’re looking for. You know the sort of thing: a couple in late middle-age called John and Mary have a dreary conversation about some medical issue or their concerns that their daughter’s relationship mightn’t be going so well.
That’s not always the case — and it’s certainly not what to expect from Personal Space, an outstanding black comedy aired on Drama on One (Radio 1, Sun, 8pm). Mairéad Kiernan’s play starred Evanna Lynch — your children will know her from those Harry Potter movies — as Helen, an odd and lonely young woman with a brash housemate called Lola (India Mullen), a thing for red coffee cups and an unending monologue rattling inside her head.
Helen is a brilliantly written character: she’s sympathetic, pathetic and also fairly obviously wackadoodle. At the same time you like her and wish her well. Lynch is great in the role, as are Mullen and Emmet Kirwan, who plays Geoff, a hideously pretentious “slam poet” who drones on with recycled clichés about David Lynch to impress girls.
Directed by radio-drama veteran Zoë Comyns, Personal Space was smart, surprising, a bit shocking and laugh-out-loud funny throughout. More of this and less “John, the doctor’s worried about those test results” tedium, please.
Also very entertaining, in a different way, was this week’s Documentary and Drama on Newstalk (Sat, 9pm). The Wicklow Round, produced by Ciarán Ryan, meets a number of people who, frankly, make the aforementioned Helen appear a model of sanity.
The title refers to an annual challenge wherein clearly crazy runners hike up and down some 26 different summits in the Wicklow Mountains — 110km in all, and half of it on a steep slope — within 24 hours.
Why do they put themselves through this? I have no idea, even after listening to runners explain it themselves.
And yet, for all my bewilderment and incomprehension, they seem to enjoy this self-inflicted torture. There’s nowt as queer as folk.
Paul McCartney: Inside the Songs (BBC Radio 4, podcast) comes from a forthcoming book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, created by the Beatles legend and Irish poet Paul Muldoon (also, the closest thing poetry has to someone who channels the rock ’n’ roll spirit).
The show featured Macca reading from the book, this week focusing on how he wrote All My Loving, one of the band’s many hits and one which really broke them as superstars.
McCartney still sounds younger than his 79 years; his explorations of the creative process and reminiscences about times past were fascinating, whether you’re a devotee of the band or not.