MayDay: Snapshot of another extraordinary day of Ireland in Covid-19 lockdown

TV review: RTÉ captures the pain and pleasure of 24 hours during the pandemic

MayDay: Catherine Quinn and her granddaughter Hannah Quinn-Mulligan at their farm in Co Limerick

MayDay: Catherine Quinn and her granddaughter Hannah Quinn-Mulligan at their farm in Co Limerick

 

The early morning is empty and bleak in the half-light. “It gives the road a lot of melancholy and loneliness,” says the truck driver who’s setting out on deliveries. He hasn’t seen his girlfriend. “It hurts your soul a bit. It puts the break on in your life.”

He’s one of a cast of people all over Ireland figuring in MayDay: 24 Hours in Ireland’s Lockdown (RTÉ One, Thursday, 9.35pm), emblematic of the rest of us, living through the Covid-19 lockdown.

Filmed over 24 hours on April 24th, the programme documents the impact of coronavirus on lives that have changed utterly in just weeks. It uses a variety of techniques to paint a picture – overhead shots, conventional footage and interviews, self-recorded video by individuals and families.

MayDay: postman Paul Cox, who sings as he delivers mail
MayDay: postman Paul Cox, who sings as he delivers mail

A doctor’s alarm goes off at 5am in Ballina, and she films herself, nodding affectionately at her slumbering partner – “sleeping beauty” – before heading off for a shift in the emergency department of University Hospital Galway; later that morning, he – immunocompromised and laid off – home-schools their three children. A grandmother and granddaughter cocoon together, farming in Co Limerick. Postal workers sort and a postman sings as he delivers mail. A Sikh taxi driver in Dublin disinfects between very occasional fares, and delivers hot meals to frontline workers. A 44-year-old with cancer doesn’t know what the future holds for her, or her two children. A heart-sore man videos his mother’s funeral. There’s a Zoom karate class, a temporary testing centre.

Tara Peterman, Darragh Byrne and John Downes’s documentary follows the essence of the day, punctuated by the sounds and rhythm of RTÉ’s news, Liveline and John Creedon. The result reflects the scale and speed of change, and how some people are extraordinarily busy while others adapt to enforced inactivity, each with their own stresses.

There are moments of humour, intimacy and heartbreak, but overall people’s resilience and good cheer define this rapidly made, evocative documentary, a sort of instant history of the moment, capturing diverse circumstances, pain and pleasure of one day in exceptional times.

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