12 Days of Lesley Manville – 3: Mayday

Overshadowed by Broadchurch at the time, Mayday switches up the crime drama trope by focusing on the community rather than the investigation

“I’ve done everything I can to put things right”

It’s all well and good trying to set up a battle royale between competing shows. But the BBC might retrospectively rue putting up crime drama Mayday against its ITV rival, given that that turned out to be Broadchurch. They’re even similar down to the young person found dead in a small community full of suspicious sorts but where Olivia Colman and David Tennant’s investigation led the Dorset-based show, the Sussex-set Mayday is a true ensemble affair.

This has both its pros and cons in writer/creators Ben Court and Caroline Ip’s work. The disappearance of 14-year-old Hattie on the day she’s meant to be the village May Queen is the triggering impetus for the show but the focus is very much on the community around her, the wide range of people with seemingly so much to hide and thus a huge amount of suspicion to share. There is very little attention on the police investigation per se, which proves a fascinating shake-up.

The big plus is that it affords a cracking ensemble a decent amount of screentime with meaty storylines. Over here Lesley Manville and Peter Firth are the wealthy but miserable Gail and Malcolm, Sophie Okonedo and Peter McDonald’s Fiona and Alan are wrestling with her extended break from the police force to be a mum of three while he still serves, Aidan Gillen is a moody widower, Sam Spruell is a mouthy brother and as it turns out, everyone looks like they coulda been involved.

The police – led by Adrian Rawlins – are there in the background but the attention is on the behaviour that this terrible crime inspires in this tight-knit community. Right-minded folk go crazy, suspicions heighten for pretty much everyone, and it is really tricky to figure out whodunnit. The choice to add in a pseudo-supernatural element is one major mis-step but otherwise, I rather enjoyed the propulsive narrative here as we were spared a tortured detective for once.

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