The thought of committing five consecutive nights to a TV drama fills me with dread these days, what with an already overflowing Sky+ box and unwatched box set gathering dust on my shelves. However, the cast of Mayday convinced me that it would be worth immersing myself in their world for the next week. A long standing favourite of mine, Aiden Gillen (Queer as Folk), Peter Firth (Spooks), Lesley Manville (Cranford) and Sophie Okonedo (The Slap) would all be under suspicion in connection with the disappearance of 14 year old May Queen, Hattie.
However, as often happens with ensemble casts, everyone seems to be trying to out-act each other leading to some hugely clichéd scenes. Property developer Peter Firth’s hanged girl in the model village is straight out of a B-movie, and Aiden Gillen in particular over-eggs the “stereotypical bad guy” pudding a little, making it entirely obvious to anyone who has ever seen a murder mystery programme that he will not, in fact, be the culprit (or perhaps he will, and the BBC are playing out a double bluff).
The story is a simple one, 14yr old girl goes missing and everyone suspects everyone else. Aside from the inevitable clichés that were littered across this tense opening episode Mayday wins points for being brilliantly atmospheric and genuinely chilling at times. The scene were a strange man climbs through a sleeping girl’s bedroom to take her teddy bear left me thinking twice about turning the lights off at bedtime.
The story is as intriguing as it is mad and I just hope that it doesn’t go too zany before the conclusion on Thursday night. Although the cast spawned familiar face after familiar face I struggled to engage with some of the more off the wall and over the top performances. Aiden Gillen in particular seemed to be working extra hard to be the least believable member of the cast although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit curious as to the inner goings on in his mysterious bag.
As atmospheric and enjoyable as it can be, Mayday doesn’t feel of the same standard as the majority of BBC drama in recent years. It tries too hard in places and not matter how many members of the cast stand gazing worryingly out of a window I wasn’t as drawn as I wanted to be. As a piece of horror or hokum Mayday is perfectly enjoyable but if you are expected to be drawn by emotional characters and true heartache than Mayday is worth a miss.
It’s fair to say that Sophie Okonedo and Lesley Manville stand head and shoulders above the male cast, lending their characters a believable level of despair and doubt. Okonedo always shines and it Mayday she’s particularly good. However, I would be surprised if Mayday doesn’t lose a huge amount of viewers this evening, especially when it is up against Broadchurch on ITV, starring the always brilliant David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Olivia Colman (Twenty Twelve). ITV beating BBC One in the quality of their TV drama? That would surely be a first, and yet it looks almost guaranteed to happen.
Mayday continues at 9.00pm until Thursday on BBC1
Contributed by Siobhan Parker
The DVD features – The Making of Mayday
* Cast Filmographies
* Picture Gallery
The DVD is out April 8th from Acorn Media