Maxine Peake receives Diggers’ Award

ACTOR and Morning Star supporter Maxine Peake is to receive this year’s Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award presented annually by the Wigan Diggers Festival committee.
The accolade is for her “outstanding contribution to the cause of making the Earth a common treasury for all” in the spirit of Winstanley and the 17th-century Diggers’ movement.
Ms Peake, who is known for her roles in Silk, Shameless, Dinnerladies and The Village, wrote and performed in a play on Radio 4 about the Women Against Pit Closures’s occupation of Parkside Colliery at Newton-le-Willows in 1994.
The Gerrard Winstanley award was introduced at last year’s Wigan Diggers’ Festival and was presented to Tony Benn.
This year’s festival is in Wigan on Saturday, September 13, from 11 am to 9.30pm.


Craven Series 6: Family Man – read by Maxine Peake (starting from 8th Sept)

Craven Series 6: Family Man

Created and Written by Amelia Bullmore
A Red Production Produced by Savvy Productions

Episode 1

The Crime Drama series Craven returns for a 6th series starring Maxine Peake as DCI Craven.

“Right. I have to tell this one. You won’t want to hear it but don’t shrink away. We’d all like to. I’d read about similar cases of course but I’d never worked on one. You’d have to be a pretty stupid police officer not to wonder if one will come your way. It came our way two days before Christmas. A man killed his children. We knew who, very early on. This isn’t about that. It’s about why.”

Writer………………………………………………Amelia Bullmore
Executive Producer…………………………… Nicola Shindler
Director / Producer…………………………….Justine Potter
Sound Engineer ………………………………..Alisdair McGregor
Sound Designer…………………………………Eloise Whitmore
Police Consultant ………………………………Keith Dillon

A Red Production produced by Savvy Productions for BBC Radio 4.

Duration: 15 minutes
First broadcast: Monday 08 September 2014


Maxine Peake’s run as Hamlet at Royal Exchange extended by a week

Maxine Peake will star in Hamlet for an extra week at The Royal Exchange due to exceptional demand for tickets.

Extra tickets for the production, in which the acclaimed actress and star of TV shows Shameless and Silk plays the traditionally male title role, have gone on sale today and will now see the play run until October 25.

The box office has already sold 24,000 tickets – making Hamlet the theatre’s fastest selling show in a decade.

Director Sarah Frankcom said: “It’s the most popular selling show we’ve ever had and I think that’s because people seem to be really excited by the proposition of how we’re doing it.”

Asked whether its popularity might prompt the theatre to arrange a UK touring production, Frankcom said: “There’s all sort of conversations flying round but I think the important thing is for us to make it here and to make it for this space and for audiences that come to this theatre first and foremost.”

Following her run in Hamlet, Peake has confirmed she will write a piece to be performed at The Royal Exchange.

Sarah Frankcom added: “Maxine has had a huge year already because her play (Beryl, at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse) has been a massive, monumental hit.

“I’m really excited with this theatre engaging with Maxine as a writer.”

Tickets for the extra performances are now available from The Royal Exchange box office on 0161 833 9833 or on online at


Yay for the extra week :D Get your tickets now before it’s too late!

Maxine Peake reveals physical demands of playing Hamlet

Hot yoga classes in the city’s Northern Quarter and cycling have been part of Maxine Peake’s physical preparations for playing the demanding role of Hamlet.

The Royal Exchange production, with Maxine in the traditionally male title role, opens on September 11, but already she’s nursing injuries. “I pulled a muscle in my armpit as the fight director threw me – it’s proper full on,” Maxine smiles. “And that’s what’s been good about it – you get to stretch all the muscles.

“It’s a bit of a dream come true; I’m doing a sword fight and then I’m punching someone in the head! I get it now why all men get very over excited about wanting to play Hamlet. You do everything: every emotional base is covered. It is just encapsulating the ultimate part.”

As enthusiastic as Maxine is at 40 about William Shakespeare’s 16th century play about royalty and revenge, she hasn’t always had a healthy relationship with The Bard. A student at Salford Technical College from 16 to 18, she was advised “do not touch Shakespeare – none of you will be able to achieve it… It became that thing I was frightened to death of.

“But as an actress, there have been male roles that I’ve thought, ‘I can do that, I can get my head into that’. Just because I haven’t got the appropriate genitalia doesn’t mean I can’t understand that.”

Director Sarah Frankcom agrees: “There are some amazing female theatre actors between 35 and 50 and there is a real battle to find anything for them to do. Even in Shakespeare, once you’ve done Rosalind, what have you got to look forward to? Those female roles are quite limited. ”

In centuries past, Hamlet has regularly been played by female actors, but still Maxine warns audiences should prepare for an original interpretation (“We all have to discover things for the first time with it, and what’s been good is holding our nerves with that,” says Sarah). Consequently, Maxine’s Hamlet occupies a wide space on the gender spectrum, as Maxine explains: “It is a female who feels more akin to the male sex, so presents (as a man) and expects everyone else to respect that.

“Some of the things that I read initially and would class as misogyny, now it flips it and you think, ‘I forgive you Shakespeare!’. It really works – you think, ‘This was definitely written for a woman’.”

Sarah adds: “The source material for Hamlet was based on a Danish legend about a cross dressed girl child. This is a writer that is interested in blurring the notions of gender.

“People seem to be really excited about the proposition of how we’re doing it. The pressure of people’s expectations is you could kill off the idea of a female Hamlet if we don’t get it right! But it’s not just to do with gender: it’s to do with disability, race, representation and diversity. It’s been encouraging people have recognised that we’re trying to do something here.”

Due to phenomenal box office demand, a week of extra performances have gone on sale today (Monday, September1 ) for Hamlet.

Royal Exchange, September 11-October 25? Standard Tickets from £15


Rehearsal Pics: Maxine Peake as Hamlet

EDIT: 9 HQ photos have been added to the photo gallery… enjoy!

Maxine Peake stars in Sarah Frankcom’s production at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre

Rehearsal images have been released for Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at the Royal Exchange Theatre, which opens on 11 September 2014.

Peake takes the title role in Shakespeare’s tragedy, alongside Gillian Bevan as Polonia, Katie West as Ophelia, John Shrapnel as Claudius, Barbara Marten as Gertrude, Claire Benedict as Player King, Jodie McNee as Rosencrantz and Ashley Zhangazha as Laertes.
The rest of the cast comprises Thomas Arnold, Michelle Butterly, Dean Gregory, Tachia Newall, Peter Singh and Ben Stott.

Hamlet runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 18 October.


Autumn’s must-see theatre: Hamlet

Wondering what to see in the theatre this autumn? From Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire, to Maxine Peake as Hamlet, here’s our guide to the best of theatreland.

photograph Amelia Troubridge

September 11th – October 18th
The Royal Exchange, Manchester
Red favourite Maxine Peake takes on the lead role in this thought-provoking re-imagining of the classic Shakespeare.

For more information visit

Read our interview with Maxine Peake
Get tickets to see Maxine Peake in conversation with Red
Theatre to see in the cinema


Maxine Peake overcomes her fear of Shakespeare for new Hamlet role

AS she prepares to take on the iconic title role of Hamlet, Maxine Peake admits she was “frightened to death” of performing Shakespeare’s work for a long time.

Now the Bolton-born stage and screen star is relishing getting her teeth into the part, in the ultimate play about murder and madness, at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre.

The former pupil at Westhoughton High School said: “I remember going to Salford Tech, aged 16 to 18, and we used to have to do a speech, a dance and a song every couple of months and we were told, do not touch Shakespeare — none of you will be able to achieve it.

“So it was the thing that I was frightened to death of. And even at drama school, one thing I felt was slightly lacking at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) was that we didn’t do enough Shakespeare. In my third year, I never did a production so I was petrified of it.

“I played Ophelia at the West Yorkshire Playhouse 12 years ago and, yeah, I probably wasn’t that great.

“But I’ve not looked at Hamlet like it’s Shakespeare — it’s just a great play and a great part.

“There needs to be a sea change in the way people think about Shakespeare but I do think it’s a class thing.

“It’s still seen, in some respects, as elitist.

“I think things are starting to break down but, I was frightened to death of it for a long time.”

The 40-year-old, known for screen roles on shows including The Village, Silk, Shameless and Dinnerladies, is back working with the theatre’s joint artistic director Sarah Frankcom, following on from Miss Julie in 2012 and last year’s The Masque of Anarchy.

Speaking of tackling the role, previously played by actors including Sir Kenneth Branagh, Richard Burton and David Tennant, Maxine added: “It’s a he. We’re calling it a he but it is a she.

“I think it stemmed from after we’d done Miss Julie and we said, right, what’s next?

“I think we felt we just wanted to keep stretching ourselves. What next is a big challenge?

“And sitting down and looking at those big female roles, a lot of them had just been done so that’s not going to work.

“And it’s quite difficult because there’s not that many that stretch you like this role so why not?

“Men do it. There’s loads of all-male companies bobbing about, as if they’ve not got enough roles as it is.”

Hamlet will also see Maxine use skills not usually called upon for female actors, such as appearing in a fight scene with Ashley Zhangazha, who plays Laertes.

She said: “It’s proper full on. It’s a bit like a dream come true. I’m on stage and I’m doing a sword-fight and then I’m punching him in the head.

“You sort of go, yeah I get now why men get very over-excited about playing Hamlet because you do everything. Every emotional base is covered, physically. It is the ultimate part to play.”

Hamlet is at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from Thursday, September 11, to Saturday, October 18.


Maxine Peake has appeared in a number of television and stage productions including Channel 4’s Shameless, Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies and Craig Cash’s Early Doors.

In 2006, she portrayed the Moors murderer Myra Hindley in See No Evil: The Moors Murders.

The year after, she played Tracey Temple in the TV drama Confessions of a Diary Secretary, which told the story of John Prescott’s affair with his secretary.

January 2009 saw her appear in her first major feature film role, as Angela in the film Clubbed, and in the Channel 4 trilogy Red Riding.

In 2010 she played the lead character in The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister.

A year later she again took the lead role of barrister Martha Costello in the BBC’s legal drama, Silk.

She starred alongside John Simm in the BBC drama The Village, depicting life in a Derbyshire village during World War I.
The 40-year-old was nominated for a BAFTA in the leading actress category for her performance.
The second series of The Village, set in the 1920s, is on TV now.


Maxine Peake leads performers’ call for end to arts cuts

Maxine Peake is among a group of actors, musicians and artists calling for tougher action against government cuts to public services, which would see arts funding return to pre-2010 levels.

In a letter published in The Guardian, the newly formed Artists’ Assembly Against Austerity called for people involved in the creative arts to “mobilise against cuts in public and voluntary services introduced by the current government”.

They called for no more cuts to the cultural and heritage sectors.

The alliance is made up of 200 creative artists and is an extension of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, which was formed in 2013.

It was launched as a response to the need to initiate a specific assembly for artists, who “have as much to lose as many other groups as a result of the dwindling public sector”.

The group’s demands centre on four issues set out in the letter, which include ensuring “equal access to arts education by scrapping student fees and ending cuts to creative subjects in schools and universities”, and investing in the arts to generate a “significant cash benefit to the tax payer”.

The letter called for “no more cuts to the cultural and heritage sectors and reinstatement of arts funding to pre-2010 levels, appropriately adjusted to inflation”.

The demands also include the continuation of free healthcare and capped rents to provide affordable homes and studios.

Other artists and performers to sign the letter include authors Blake Morrison and China Mieville, singer Grace Petrie and artist Peter Kennard, while performance artist and comedian Bryony Kimmings and filmmaker Amir Amirani are among those to have signed the group’s online petition.

Read the letter in full here.


Maxine Peake: More actresses should play male roles

Maxine Peake has said she hopes playing Hamlet will make it easier for women to fill male roles because Shakespeare’s female parts are “quite problematic”.

Peake will play Shakespeare’s Prince of Denmark at Manchester’s Royal Exchange theatre in September and October.

Hamlet is “the ultimate part” and is more well-rounded than female theatre characters, the actress said.

The star of Silk and The Village said her Hamlet would be a woman who is “in touch with her more masculine side”.

Peake is currently in rehearsals, where she is getting to grips with the first theatrical fight scenes of her career.

“Yesterday I pulled a muscle in my armpit as Kevin the fight director threw me,” she said.

“It’s proper full-on. It’s a bit like a dream come true because I’m on stage and I’m doing a sword fight and then I’m punching him in the head.

“I get why all men get very over-excited about playing Hamlet because you do everything. Every emotional base is covered.

“It is encapsulating the ultimate part, where you get to stretch everything. You think, yeah, you don’t get that [normally].”

Peake appeared as Ophelia in Hamlet at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in 2002 and played the prostitute Doll Tearsheet in the BBC’s Henry IV in 2012.

She said: “They’re always quite problematic, I find, the female roles in Shakespeare.”

It was not her intention “to do Hamlet and start a revolution” among female performers when taking the role, she explained.

But she added that other actresses needed “a bit of confidence” and to see that it was possible to take on male characters.

‘Extraordinary opportunity’

“And then you hope that in 10 years time that nobody questions it,” she said. “That’s just who happens to be playing Hamlet or Macbeth or Henry V – the right person for the role.

“Sometimes, as an actress, there have been male roles where I’ve thought, I could do that, I could get my head into that. Just because I haven’t got the appropriate genitalia doesn’t mean that I can’t understand that.

“And sometimes you get female roles and you spend a lot of time going, ‘I don’t get this woman’. So this opportunity has just been extraordinary.”

Other actresses have taken on Shakespeare’s great roles in the past.

Fiona Shaw played Richard II at the National Theatre in 1995 and Kathryn Hunter played King Lear in 1997. An all-female Julius Caesar was staged at the Donmar Warehouse in London in 2012, and an all-female Henry V will be seen there in October.

Frances de la Tour was the last high-profile woman to play Hamlet in the UK, in 1979.

Hamlet ‘male and female’

Royal Exchange artistic director Sarah Frankcom said: “Up until this century, there was a massive tradition of women playing this role.

“For a lot of really well-regarded female actors in the Victorian age and before, it was seen as being part and parcel of your journey and genesis as an actor.”

Frankcom said Peake’s Hamlet would be “a combination of male and female”.

“We’ve looked at gender as a spectrum rather than something that is either male or female,” she said. “Hamlet occupies different parts of that spectrum at different parts of the play.”

Peake said approaching the role as a woman had allowed her to see the play in a new light.

“Some of the things that I read initially as all the classist misogyny now are really potent,” she said. “It sort of flips it and you go, oh right, I forgive you Shakespeare now for this.

“This really works as a woman in touch with her more masculine side saying these lines. It feels right. Sometimes you go, oh my God, this was definitely written for a woman.”


Maxine Peake in rehearsals for ‘Hamlet’ – Sneak Peek #2

Another sneak peek into the Hamlet rehearsal room… Maxine Peake as Hamlet and Katie West as Ophelia:

Source: Dave Haslam via Twitter/Royal Exchange Theatre

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