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

Video Update: Peterloo Massacre Commemoration 2014

Uploaded a video of the full Peterloo Massacre Commemoration 2014. Watch it below:

On 16 August 1819, in Manchester in England, there was a peaceful protest about the lack of democracy and the economic conditions. The authorities sent in armed and mounted soldiers to break up the protest, resulting in fifteen deaths and hundreds of injuries. The event became known as the Peterloo Massacre. You can find out more at .

This is a recording of the 2014 commemoration of the anniversary of the massacre. Guests included Maxine Peake, James Dreyfus, and the Deputy Lord Mayor of Manchester.

Source: youtube

Behind the Scenes Photo from Hamlet Rehearsal

Check out this sneak peak;) photo from one of Maxine’s Hamlet rehearsals… this looks exciting, doesn’t it!?

Source: Kevin McCurdy via Twitter

Maxine Peake leads tributes as Manchester remembers the victims of the Peterloo Massacre

EDIT: Added 2 videos:

Celebrities gather to read out the names of the 15 people killed at a moving anniversary ceremony

Actress Maxine Peake led tributes to the victims of the Peterloo Massacre during a poignant anniversary ceremony in Manchester.

The former Shameless and Silk star was joined by a host of other famous faces in reading out the names of the 15 people who lost their lives in the 1819 tragedy.

The ceremony was joined by hundreds of people who marched to the city centre from Bolton, Eccles, Middleton, Salford and Stockport along the same routes taken by an estimated 60,000 campaigners who gathered at St Peter’s Field in Manchester 195 years ago to call for national political change.

The 15 were killed, and hundreds injured, when cavalry and soldiers charged the peaceful rally. The bloody massacre – and the outcry it sparked – helped shape British democracy as it is today.

Ms Peake, 40, joined the march to Manchester from Bolton then read Middleton poet Samuel Bamford’s moving eye-witness account of the horror to crowds outside Manchester Central, formerly the G-Mex.

Star DJs Dave Haslam and Mary Anne Hobbs and Manchester-based writer and musician CP Lee also read out a name each.

Organisers estimated more than 500 people attended and said awareness and interest of Peterloo was growing. Campaigners are calling for a permanent memorial.

Paul Fitzgerald, chairman of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign, said the lack of a memorial in Manchester was a ‘neglected landmark in the history of democracy’.

He said: “The day couldn’t have gone better. It was absolutely amazing. Our thanks as always go to Maxine and everyone who took part in remembering and honouring a dark day in Manchester’s history.

“We reckon around 500 people were here. People were absolutely spellbound when Maxine was reading. It was striking. The mood of the crowd was the best thing. We are going to build it up for next year and the campaign for a memorial is very much on-going.”

Renowned artist Jeremy Deller has been approached by a council committee with a view to commissioning a suitable design for a memorial.

In 2019, Manchester will mark the 200th anniversary of the bloody massacre and the council has previously said that a memorial would be in place ahead of the anniversary.


Additional Information on Maxine Peake’s film ‘Funny Cow’

Thanks to Kevin Proctor from POW Films we have some additional info on Maxine’s project ‘Funny Cow’ as well as two photos. Check them out below:

Moviehouse has boarded production Funny Cow, set to star Red Riding star Maxine Peake in the story of a female comedian’s rise to fame from a tough working class background.

BAFTA-winner Tinge Krishnan directs Tony Pitts’ script with Pitts also on board to co-star. Kevin Proctor produces with Mark Vennis of Moviehouse Entertainment.

Fully Screen Daily article here:

* * *

POW Films are in development of their debut feature film, ‘Funny Cow’ about the rise of a Northern comedienne in the male dominated world of stand-up comedy.

Maxine Peake will star as the eponymous Funny Cow with Tony Pitts as her violent life partner and John Hannah as her agent with an original score composed by Richard Hawley.

BAFTA winning Director Tinge Krishnan will direct the script penned by Tony Pitts.


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