Great expectations delivered by The Rotunda

Great expectations delivered by The Rotunda Some of the hospital staff features on The Rotunda (RTE1)

I have mixed feelings about programmes set in hospitals, whether drama or fly on the wall as I’m a tad squeamish, but they can be emotional and thought provoking, especially when on the edge of life and death.

The Rotunda on RTÉ1, on Thursday of last week, was not ideal for the squeamish. We were spared few of the graphic details of childbirth. In particular the up close filming of a C-section birth for mother Fiona was a knockout. And yet, to see the baby emerging in good health was a celebration of life inside and outside the womb. Mother Fiona was so positive – she wanted “everyone getting out safe” and finally ‘so happy he’s here’.

Nicola was well used to childbirth, as was her mother, who attended the birth and dished out the advice of experience, while the father waited near at hand.

For Shauna and Daryl, this was the first time around and their mutually supportive relationship was touching. I was most taken with the story of Áine and Arnaud who got the devastating news that baby had an abnormality likely to be fatal. After an initial inclination towards termination they took time to think over the Christmas that followed and felt that Malachy was already part of the family, kicking and hearing their music. They felt this was his happy life now and that it made sense to allow him that life until it ended naturally.

At 33 weeks the baby died in the womb and we saw the little basket in the mortuary chapel and the family taking some time creating important moments with baby Malachy. It was so wonderful and life affirming.

Overall I thought the camera was too intrusive at times, though I presume participants had given all appropriate permissions. The midwives impressed with their dedication and good humour, while Ann, the chaplain served with respect and dignity.

I particularly liked the montage at the end which gave us an up-to-date look at the families involved – despite their sad loss the family of Áine and Arnaud looked happy, showing a little plaque with ceramic prints of Malachy’s little hands.

There was a rather ugly and murderous hospital scene in the new drama series  Killing Eve which started on BBC1 last Saturday night (I’d missed the start a few weeks previously on RTÉ2). The plot centres on a psychopathic female assassin (Jodie Comer hamming it up to great effect) and the efforts of a security operative (Sandra Oh of ER fame in fine form).

The script is light and witty, despite the dark plot, which nips along at pace. It’s hard to recommend though, with the gleeful and playful amorality of Villanelle the assassin, though so far Eve is a worthy opponent, a good, strong minded, conscientious person, and certainly no wimp.

It certainly acts as a warning of what happens when morality is abandoned or not even considered. The violence doesn’t start graphic, but seems to be escalating, and yet there is no question but that it seen as evil.


Finally, couched in the context of ‘cultural appropriation’, last weekend’s Sunday Sequence (BBC Radio Ulster)  raised the question as to why Jesus is usually portrayed in art and film as being white, instead of a skin colour more appropriate to the Middle East, and whether this really matters anyway.

I suppose this is partly because here we mostly consume Western art, and it doesn’t always go for the naturalistic approach (a point that wasn’t made). Bruce Clarke, Religious Editor of The Economist didn’t seem too concerned and thought genuine religious art (which he distinguished from art that was self-indulgent) had to be transcendent and universal, and was received and “refracted” in different ways by different cultures, like the words of the Apostles at Pentecost.

He also instanced the Black Madonna of Czestochowa with her black child Jesus, and hundreds of similar images in France, as departing from the alleged norm.

Presenter Audrey Carville wondered whether the approach underscored racism – effectively promoting the idea that the default human is white, and therefore giving us little empathy for someone from the Middle East.

Writer Raquel McKee shared some of those concerns, e.g. the problem for Caribbean Christians, enslaved by white masters and then seeing Jesus and even God the Father portrayed in that way.

I did like her remark that God made just one race – the human race.


Pick of the week
EWTN, Sunday, September 23, 10.30am, also Wednesday 7 pm

Divine Mercy – in the hearts of the Irish people. Fr Aidan Dunne speaks with Fr Owen Gorman.

RTÉ1, Sunday, September 23, 11 am

Fr Henry Barlage, SVD, marks World Peace from the RTÉ studios. Music is led by the Carlow Cathedral Singers, directed by Fr Liam Lawton.

EWTN, Friday, September 28, 4.30 pm

Dispelling the myths – addressing the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and the claims that priestly celibacy is to blame.