Maxine Peake joins as narrator for an afternoon of prose – 23 November

Date: 23rd November 2014

Time: 2-4pm

Venue: Peel Hall, Peel Building, University of Salford

Join a host of star performers for an afternoon of prose, poetry and drama telling the story of radicalism and revolution and the history of the original “dirty old town”.

Expect to be entertained by some of our greatest poets and by many of the writers that we associate with Salford, from Walter Greenwood to Tony Warren, and from Robert Roberts to Shelagh Delaney. Who knows we may even hear from Henry Hobson, Harold Brighouse’s most famous creation.

Read by:

Christopher Eccleston
Sheila Hancock
Maxine Peake


Standard Standard ticket £12.00
NUS Stud. Student with valid NUS card* £8.00
*NUS card must be produced upon attendance.

For enquiries please contact the Events team on 0161 295 5241, or email

Please Note: Payments made via this page are being collected on behalf of the Working Class Movement Library;


Audio Update: ‘Hamlet Undressed’ narrated by Maxine Peake

This Autumn, the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester is staging Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Maxine Peake will be taking on the iconic role in a production which sees her reunited with Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom, a year after their hugely successful version of Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy at the Manchester International Festival.

In this programme, we’ll go behind the scenes and document Maxine’s journey to playing the part of Hamlet. From research meetings to vocal sessions, from sword fight training to character preparation, we’ll follow Maxine as she prepares to take on Shakespeare’s most iconic work.

We’ll hear from the director, the designer and other creatives about how they go about putting their unique stamp on the play, and create a Hamlet for Manchester, a Hamlet for now.

Thanks Rich for your help :)

Maxine Peake reads ‘The Worst Princess’ – a Cbeebies Bedtime Story

If you’re ready for a new bedtime story then I have the perfect video for you ;)
Maxine reads ‘The Worst Princess‘ which was recently broadcast on the Cbeebies channel.

Thanks to my friend Rich at Kathryn Morris UK we’ve got it below for you to watch. Enjoy!

Maxine Peake’s Hamlet: Production quibbles in reviews round-up

Lots of Hamlet reviews are out already and the has just posted a collection of reviews from various newspapers…

Note: This article contains some spoilers for Maxine Peake’s Hamlet, playing at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.

Maxine Peake stars in an unorthodox production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.

The Shameless actress stars in the title role, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are also played by female actresses, but what’s the verdict on the unconventional production? Digital Spy rounds up the critics’ reactions below.

Michael Billington – The Guardian

“In the end, it is a mixed production that, even at three-and-a-half hours, omits a good deal. What it gives us, however, is an excellent Hamlet by Peake that proves the character has the miraculous ability to take on the colour, style and personality of whoever is lucky enough to perform it.” 3/5


Dominic Cavendish – The Telegraph

“‘It’s about having a go,’ Peake said recently. ‘If we fail miserably, we fail miserably.’ They haven’t failed miserably but this isn’t quite the triumph one had hoped for. It’s Hamlet in-the-round but not a Hamlet that’s fully rounded.” 3/5


Paul Vallely – The Independent

“Director Sarah Frankcom plays with the lines in ways which often make them seem fresh-minted and funny. There is some imaginative set design, though the in-the-round setting, as ever, results in some words being lost when the actors turn their back. But overall this Hamlet is compelling.” 4/5


Greg Thorpe – Manchester Evening News

“If you know your Hamlets, this is something beyond a John Simm or a David Tennant, this is something in the realms of Michael Maloney or Rory Kinnear. “What a piece of work is a man” indeed.

“I like the idea that Manchester could be the home of outstanding Shakespeares – and there’s really no going back after this.” 5/5


Glenn Meads – What’s On Stage

“Maxine Peake does what you would expect – deliver a subtle and knowing performance and also manages to give the character a fresh feel which goes way beyond gender. Shifting about the set with eyes in the back of her head, she nails the distrust of Hamlet with ease. She also proves to be a credible fighter/lover and this fine actress has energy to burn.” 3/5


At her Peake: Maxine’s Manchester Hamlet – and her career in pictures

As Maxine Peake plays Shakespeare’s ‘sweet prince’ in one of 2014’s most anticipated productions, take a look at the Silk star’s stage career so far

Follow the link to the gallery here.

Review: Maxine Peake as Hamlet, at the Royal Exchange Manchester

It’s the holy grail, Hamlet made fresh and distinct and specific and alive. You read it on every interview and every programme. Except how do you do that? Director Sarah Frankcom and company at the Royal Exchange Manchester found the way to a version of the play that – while it doesn’t do everything the play can do – is fearless, personal and closer to the heart than possibly any other Hamlet I have seen. It shakes the play’s heaviness and with immense confidence creates a world where ideas have an exhilarating quality and a whole layer of skin and grime has been scraped.

Maxine Peake’s Hamlet is a cross between a warrior angel (one of the beautiful lovelorn angels Philip Pullman writes) and the Little Prince. Unselfconsciously wise, relentless in gouging the truth out of everything, occasionally scary, earthy and alien, warm and mischievous and never more himself than when he laughs. While his insanity is not entirely an act, he is unperturbed by it. He knows something beyond the obvious. He is trapped at the beginning of the play, he finds a mission and a way out when he meets the Ghost, and goes home at the end of it. Peake is scorchingly good, above all in her ability to connect and hold the world at the palm of her hand: this Hamlet could raise an army if he wanted, and we are it.

Taking a cue from the lead, the production embraces the open-hearted humanity of the play. Half a dozen scenes become instant classics: the meeting of Hamlet and the Ghost is a scene of immense beauty, as if all the love between father and son has been turned inside out. The players (that include young actors from the Royal Exchange Young Company) introduce a world of innocent contradictions, to the point that the play within the play becomes a pivotal moment and a door to a new world. The graveside scene is brilliantly staged, allowing for an imaginative reading of the mortality theme. Special mention for designer Amanda Stoodley who creates a raggedy tactile world that never feels cheap.

The rest of the cast adds their particular kind of magic: John Schrapnel is a Ghost of controlled but infinite despair, as commanding as he is moving. By contrast his Claudius is coldly calculating, even in remorse. Barbara Marten subtly suggests Gertrude’s struggle, even at her husband’s side. Gillian Bevan’s Polonia embraces the machiavellian machinations of the court with such energy and richness you almost forgive the “mommie dearest” relationship with Ophelia. Thomas Arnold’s Horatio is brilliantly understated but always present and fierce in his warm relationship with Hamlet. Katie West’s Ophelia finds a streak of rebellion before life and courage and sanity are squashed out of her. Jodie McNee’s Rosencrantz manages the contradiction of a punky exterior and a corporate heart. Ben Stott makes his mark with a touching Player Queen and a subtly supercilious Osric. Claire Benedict’s Player King effortlessly carries the truth of human experience that the players represent. And last but not least, the young actors of the company more than rise to the occasion and show everyone how it is done.

The production does away with all political references. No matter. With such an immediate all-encompassing version of the play, anything left out feels inconsequential. It’s not a definitive production of the play – because such thing doesn’t exist. But it is as rich and as vital as any Hamlet production I have seen.

As with most of my Shakespeare reviews, below is the SPOILER section (specific observations about the production that you shouldn’t read before you see it).

– To Be or Not To Be makes a very late appearance, immediately after the closet scene and Polonia’s death. Somehow, that takes the suicidal sting out of it – we just had a murder and mortality is about the death of others. That approach is a good fit for this Hamlet who is never morose or depressed.

– Laertes reunites with Ophelia in her madness and is part of her rosemary scene (where some of Claudius’ lines are given to Laertes).

– When I started playing around with the idea that Maxine Peake’s Hamlet is – at least in part – the Little Prince, it all felt like a leap of faith. Then I read the passage when the Little Prince dies: “He remained motionless for an instant. He did not cry out. He fell as gently as a tree falls”. There is no better description for this Hamlet’s death.

– Hamlet is reading Machiavelli’s The Prince.

– David Bowie has a marvellous year in the theatre: after Starman being the moment of reckoning in My Night With Reg, his Lady Grinning Soul is the song the players sing as they make their entrance for the play within the play. It’s an eery, intoxicating rendition, that combined with the child actors doing the dumb show immediately afterwards turns the scene into a profound and unexpectedly moving moment, a portal to another world.

– The graveside is created by armful of clothes being dropped from above and then rearranged to create the hole of the grave. Among the items, sweaters are folded to the size and the vague appearance of skulls. One of them is Yorick, who is hugged and handled in a way that wouldn’t be possible with a real skull. The chill of death is absent but again, consistency of vision is preserved, this is not a Hamlet who was scared of death in the first place.

– Rosencrantz offers Hamlet cocaine. Hamlet doesn’t take it.

– When Gertrude – unbeknownst to her – drinks the poison and approaches Hamlet with the line “Let me wipe thy face”, mother and son have a final tender moment. In the 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company production, Penny Downie’s Gertrude knowingly drinks the poison and then tries to wipe her son’s face. David Tennant’s Hamlet, flushed by the heat of the fight, pulls away, never giving them a final moment together.

Curtain call watch: Maxine Peake taking her solo curtain call was a joyous moment, not only because the audience was appropriately enthusiastic and she looked happy (as she should be) but also because she had a brief moment of confusion and mirth when she forgot which sides she had taken a bow to.


Hamlet Undressed on BBC Radio 4 – 28 September

Maxine Peake goes behind the scenes of Hamlet at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Listeners will follow Maxine on her journey as she takes on Shakespeare’s greatest character.

This autumn, the Royal Exchange Theatre is staging Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This programme documents Maxine’s journey as she prepares to play the part of Hamlet, which sees her reunited with Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom, a year after their hugely successful version of Shelley’s The Masque Of Anarchy at the Manchester International Festival.

From research meetings to vocal sessions, from sword fight training to character preparation, listeners hear from the director, the designer and other creatives about how they go about putting their unique stamp on the play, and create a Hamlet for Manchester, a Hamlet for now.

Presenter/ Maxine Peake, Producer / Elizabeth Foster for the BBC

When? Sunday 28 September, 1.30pm-2.00pm on BBC RADIO 4


Podcast: Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at Royal Exchange

Listen to the podcast below (Maxine’s interview is right at the beginning):

The hottest tickets for 2014’s autumn theatre season in Manchester are productions of Shakespeare from two of the region’s leading theatre companies.

The Royal Exchange Theatre production of Hamlet is directed by artistic director Sarah Frankcom starring popular stage and TV actress Maxine Peake in the title role. When we spoke to Sarah and Maxine with two and a half weeks to go before opening, this had already become one of the theatre’s most popular productions.

Hamlet runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester from 11 September to 25 October 2014. For more information, see


Theatre: plays and musicals to watch out for in autumn 2014

Highlights of the coming season include Maxine Peake as Hamlet, Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra, Lindsay Lohan in a Mamet satire, the shocking installation piece Exhibit B and a fresh take on Treasure Island


As powerful on stage as she is popular on TV, Maxine Peake will become one of the few women ever to tackle Shakespeare’s longest role. She’s reunited with director Sarah Frankcom, who steered her in the 2013 Manchester International Festival hit The Masque of Anarchy. Few female actors get the chance to play the role which Max Beerbohm described as “the hoop through which every eminent actor must, sooner or later, jump”. Peake is unlikely to disappoint. LG

Royal Exchange, Manchester, from 11 September


Maxine Peake’s Hamlet is just another arrow in Manchester’s cultural quiver

It will be a big night on Thursday when Maxine Peake starts her new job as an associate artist at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Not that the audience will be bothered about her status there. She is a star, and in Manchester and environs she’s a Vega, born, bred and still living in the area. The play is Hamlet, which she has been in before, as Ophelia at the West Yorkshire Playhouse 12 years ago. But this time, and this is the reason why the nation will be taking notice, she’s Hamlet.

It’s not the first time a woman has played the prince, Sarah Siddons did it a couple of centuries ago and Frances de la Tour had a go in the 1970s, but it’s not your traditional breeches role, and this will be a sensation that will do the Royal’s box office no harm at all.

More than that, though, it adds to the growing cultural ecology that Manchester has been building for itself, never mind what happens elsewhere in the UK, least of all London. Tourists are pouring into the city at, according to the latest 2012 figures, a rate of 105 million a year, 10 million of them staying overnight. That year they spent £6.6 billion in the city and, along with football, you imagine the lion’s share of that money is attracted by the arts culture.

The biennial Manchester International Festival, seven years old with its fifth iteration coming next summer, is itself worth £38 million. The music industry alone creates 24,000 jobs a year. In November the new Whitworth Art Gallery opens, transformed to welcome the park it has turned its back on for 130 years.

And while the subsidised sector is burgeoning against the national trend, across in neighbouring Salford – what Ewan MacColl bemoaned as a Dirty Old Town in 1949 – the Lowry arts centre that opened 14 years ago at a cost of £106 million was facing closure within a couple of years. The Heritage Lottery Fund and a whole cultural rethink – which involved working with the community that surrounded the place rather than the invisible international audience it was built for – had to come to the rescue, and now the Lowry, which earns 85% of its income now, is getting 820,000 visitors a year. In July, the Lowry attracted its biggest private donation – £1 million – towards its next development programme. And across the Manchester Ship Canal is, of course, MediaCityUK, home to the BBC, among others.

Behind all this is the local authority and characteristic Manchester pragmatism that had recognised that the post-industrial car crash whose only cultural contribution to the rest of the country was Coronation Street was a creative bomb just waiting to be detonated. Manchester City Council did it by putting money into the arts but also by making the movers and shakers sit together, talk and share plans. And it’s why Peake’s Hamlet is being talked about by the city’s musicians, museum curators and dancers. They’re proud of every new artistic thing that comes along.

Hamlet won’t be the biggest event of the year in Manchester. Just the latest.


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