Created by Ben Court and Caroline Ip.
Starring Peter Firth, Peter McDonald, Leila Mimmack, Aidan Gillen, Sophie Okenedo, Lesley Manville, Max Fowler, Tom Fisher and Sam Spruell.
As a small community celebrates May Day, 14-year-old May Queen Hattie disappears.
The BBC’s recent five-part thriller Mayday, shown on consecutive nights over one week last month, comes out on DVD today complete with standard extra features including a ‘making-of’, cast filmographies and a photo gallery.
Set in a small countryside community during their traditional May Day celebrations, local popular girl Hattie Sutton (Leila Mimmack) disappears on her way to take part in the parade as the May Queen. Over the next few hours and days, as the search for the teenager widens and the likely outcome grows grimmer, the town is torn apart by suspicion and a lack of trust as neighbours and family turn on one another and old resentments simmer and bubble over. We see how a devastating turn of events can affect a close-knit community so drastically: trophy wife Gail (Lesley Manville) turns on secretive and distant husband Malcolm (Peter Firth), son Linus (Max Fowler) suspects his careless and manipulative father Everett (Aidan Gillen), frustrated ex-copper turned stay-at-home-mother Fiona (Sophie Okenedo) worries about her husband Alan (Peter McDonald), and brothers Steve (Sam Spruell ) and Seth (Tom Fisher) find their already shaky relationship further tested. Meanwhile more unexpected links between characters slowly emerge, raising further doubts over everyone’s innocence.
Coming from good writing stock (Ben Court and Caroline Ip of Whitechapel) Mayday is nevertheless disappointing. Actor Aidan Gillen describes it optimistically as a “twisted cousin of Midsomer Murders” but this bloated series packs none of its punch. It sags in the middle, wanders off into too many under-developed sub-plots and is guilty of today’s cardinal television sin: that of being at least a third too long. Mayday would have benefited from sharper editing and losing two episodes, thereby gaining much-needed momentum and a hearty dose of intrigue (hopefully). We are led to suspect all the lead characters at one time or another as all prove to be deceitful and bitter- but this “whodunnit” air also has the unfortunate side-effect of making it harder to care about who the culprit actually is when they’re all so unpleasant. Distracted Gail and misunderstood Linus are clearly presented as the characters to root for, despite the fact that their moral compasses go out of the window at the programme’s climax, but this doesn’t stop them alienating viewers anyway: Gail is frustratingly insipid and weak, and Linus is the standard “lost little lamb” turned into tormented teen. Mayday does at least throw-up a few reasonable twists near the end, which most viewers won’t necessarily see coming, but by this time it is too late for the thriller to salvage its reputation and grab the audience’s interest, and most of the characters are so corrupt that it doesn’t seem to matter anymore who is in fact truly guilty of the crime.
The cast of Mayday is impressive in both reputation and, on the most part, performance in the series. In particular, Lesley Manville is virtually unrecognisable as a shallow and shrill glamorous housewife and Aidan Gillen and his sneaky face are given yet another splendidly dubious character to craft. Even so, there is no escaping the fact that they are all let down by poor writing and a critical lack of pace- sometimes almost to the point of repetitiveness. The final nail in Mayday’s coffin, however, was undoubtedly provided by an unlucky (or unwise) development and scheduling clash with ITV’s Broadchurch, which provides the virtually-identical premise of examining the effects of a young boy’s murder on his family and local community, as well as an equally stellar cast. It crucially, however, managed to be good.