BBC Radio 4, 22 March 2011
Gwilym (Charles Dale) has lived what can best be described as a sheltered
life in rural mid-Wales, living in his parents' house, tending his cacti and coping with a series of nosey neighbours wanting
to know his every move. His one recreation in life is writing regular letters to women serving long sentences in prison all
round the world, in the secure knowledge that he will never have to meet them.
One day Gwilym's secure little world is turned upside down as Layla O'Dowd (Claire-Louise
Cordwell) knocks on his door; she is one of the prisoners with whom he has regularly corresponded, who has been released,
and who has now come in search of him, hoping for a better life.
Thereafter begins a series of comic misadventures, in which the two epistolary lovers
try to come to terms with living, speaking and sleeping together. The process is not an easy one: misunderstandings prevail
on both sides, while neighbour Mrs. Davies (Suzanne Packer), does her best to split them up - ostensibly in Gwilym's
best interests, but more likely because she resents the idea of living next to an ex-con. However it seems that the course
of true love will run smooth in the end ... until someone else unexpectedly turns up at Gwilym's door.
Jailbird Lover is a gentle comedy, exploring the same territory as
Love Virtually, broadcast a week or so earlier - how and whether individuals can come to terms with physical
contact, after having established a relationship through letters (rather than emails). Dramatist Hawes creates an Odd
Couple-like scenario: Gwilym and Layla come from totally different backgrounds, with totally different outlooks on life,
yet despite this, they manage to learn how to live together. Human beings can be very adaptable should the occasion arise.
The atmosphere of the production was greatly enhanced by harmonica virtuoso
Julian Jackson's music: many of the old tunes "Isn't She Lovely," reminding us that this was first and foremost a play