Bold, versatile and fiercely democratic: an ode to Maxine Peake

The Guardian has published a great new article about Maxine. I’ve posted it below, it’s a good after work read so you should definitely check it out!

Actor defied early rejections from drama schools to become one of Britain’s most exciting stage names, winning plaudits for her roles as well as her personality

Maxine Peake: ‘I don’t like modern life. I pine for the simplicity of the past.’

It is a mark of the boldness and versatility of Maxine Peake that she is one of the few actors to have played both Ophelia and Hamlet in productions of Shakespeare’s Danish tragedy. And this protean quality is currently on show every night at the Manchester Royal Exchange theatre, where, portraying an ancient shape-shifter in a revival of Caryl Churchill’s play The Skriker, she inhabits a vast range of characters – old, young, male, female, English, American, historical, contemporary, mythical – during two hours of being almost permanently on stage.

British actors who have just done a successful movie – Peake is in the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything – and starred in a hit TV series (she played an ambitious barrister in Silk) often move on to Hollywood or Broadway. And, while those options remain open, it seems typical of Peake that she should now appear in a piece of experimental theatre; The Skriker combines music, movement and torrential monologues in an invented language.

Peake was born in Bolton, and The Skriker is the sixth time in 10 years the actor has worked in Manchester with Sarah Frankcom, artistic director of the Royal Exchange, where Peake was a member of the youth theatre as a teenager. Her performance in the title role of Hamlet last year, a show that numerous producers elsewhere would love to have hosted, was for Exchange audiences only and set box office records.

“She chooses to live in the north and often to work there,” says Frankcom. “It’s a very important part of who she is.”

An earlier generation of northern actors – including Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney – were encouraged to southernise their vowels in theatre, and while Britain has become more tolerant of dialect, increasing screen possibilities in the US place a fresh pressure on actors to even out their speech. Frankcom notes that Peake, born in 1974, “has resolutely never lost her Boltonian accent and I think that’s very important for young actors because we can still be funny about regional accents in theatre, partly, I’m afraid, for class reasons. But Max is very proud of where she comes from.”

Anyone drawn to The Skriker by having seen Peake in Silk will be impressed by an acting range that easily encompasses both screen realism and theatrical surrealism. However, Peter Moffat, writer of three TV series in which Peake has starred – Criminal Justice, Silk and The Village – believes there is a unifying factor across her work: risk. Most obviously, she braved tabloid editorialising to play the Moors murderer Myra Hindley in a 2006 TV mini-series but, even in less obviously edgy parts, says Moffat, there is a level of jeopardy.

“I think she likes playing roles that people don’t think she’s going to be able to do. That’s true of Hamlet, clearly. But, when I first saw her at an audition for Criminal Justice, she was this northern young woman who convinced us that she could play a posh London character with an RP accent. In Silk, she wasn’t obvious casting for a QC. I think there can be an edge and danger that comes from the actor worrying if they’re going to be able to pull it off. And that crackle comes through the screen.”

Maxine Peake in The Skriker.

Theatrical anecdote suggests that Peake’s portrayal of the Prince of Denmark resulted from Frankcom asking her which part would most terrify her to play. The director, though, says that isn’t quite right. Generally, their joint projects have been suggested by Frankcom or Alex Poots, artistic director of the Manchester festival, but Hamlet was the exception: “Ever since I’d known her, Max was saying that was what she wanted to do and I’d kept saying it was too early to try something like that, but eventually the time seemed right.”

A key decision for female Hamlets – a tradition that stretches back to the theatrical pioneer Sarah Bernhardt – is how manly to be. Peake, with a short peroxide crop, opted for androgyny and sexual ambiguity, which brought a new perspective to the prince’s struggle to be the man he wants to be. Her Hamlet also transmitted a sense of danger, looking as if he could do some damage in the climactic duel.

Born in Westhoughton, in Bolton, she is the youngest daughter of Brian, a retired lorry driver, and Glynis, a former careworker. Her older sister, Lisa, became a police officer when Peake was a teenager: a profession that challenged the family’s leftwing, union-supporting politics. As part of the recruitment process, a sergeant came to meet the family, finding Maxine, as she told a BBC interviewer, wearing an African awareness pendant, trainers with an anarchy sign drawn on and a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament badge. “What Lisa and her colleagues go through, particularly on Saturday night in Manchester, is appalling. I have huge admiration for her,” she has said.

Maxine’s acting ambitions were thwarted by repeated rejections from drama schools before she earned a scholarship to Rada at the age of 21. Soon after graduation, she had two standout roles on TV: as Twinkle in Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies and Veronica in Paul Abbott’s Shameless.

An unusual aspect of Peake’s pre-acting CV is that she was a talented rugby league player for Wigan Ladies and Moffat believes that this strength and athleticism brings a useful physicality to her work: “The thing about Maxine is that she can credibly run, fight and punch. There’s a scene in The Village where her character is fighting in the mud to get her child back and Maxine got so into it that the crew had to pull her away.”

In the area of mental exercise, the actor’s recent theatre projects include a play about the cycling legend Beryl Burton, which was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Along with The Skriker – one of the longest and oddest parts in modern theatre – this move suggests a continuing desire to test herself.

On Manchester projects, Peake now takes the unusual credit “creative associate and lead artist”, although Frankcom describes her as “very much a company member”. During a TV production, Peake noticed that a young actor was not only eating huge amounts at the catering truck every lunchtime but then inviting his girlfriend to the meals as well.

It turned out the man was not being paid due to an accounting error he was too nervous to raise. Peake went to see the producers and got the payroll sorted out. This democratic instinct is also apparent at the end of The Skriker, when, as the audience tries to give Peake a solo ovation for her feat of vocal and physical athleticism, she quickly waves on the other actors to share the applause.

Her role in Silk led her to join a protest against legal aid cuts.

Another of her deeply held values is that, as Frankcom says, “she wants to do plays that mean something politically and socially”. Her level of ideological commitment is such that the role in Silk provoked Peake to march with lawyers campaigning against restrictions on legal aid. When an actor asked her recently what she thought of Game of Thrones, she answered that she “hadn’t seen it, obviously”, the final word referring to her refusal to subscribe to a network owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Sometimes, though, a political subtext may lead her to choose the wrong text. How To Hold Your Breath, a new play by Zinnie Harris at the Royal Court in London, had big things to say about the future of Europe, but the script was underwritten and obscurely staged.

A moment during that run, though, showed Peake’s depths of concentration and professionalism. One night, as Peake delivered the climactic monologue, a member of the audience became seriously unwell, resulting in a shout for a medical professional and noisy clambering over seats to reach the stricken theatregoer. A momentary flicker in Peake’s eyes revealed that she had noticed something was going on, but she remained word-perfect through a complex speech.

This ability to maintain focus has also been noted by Moffat during TV shoots. “Filming can be tedious and repetitive. But even by the seventh take of a scene, she’s still listening to what the other actor says and responding to it, giving you something fresh.”

Although she will continue to be offered major TV roles, her recent work suggests a move away from peak-time Peake towards something more like the career of Tilda Swinton, who has won an Oscar but is just as likely to turn up as a living artwork at the Serpentine Gallery or perform a Samuel Beckett monologue in a converted phone booth in the Scottish Highlands.

“I think it’s partly because there aren’t obvious career routes for actresses when they get to 40,” says Frankcom, “and so you have to work out what it is you want to do. I think Max has learned the cost of doing things she doesn’t believe in and so now she has to be really committed to something.”

Peake has attributed her artistic freedom partly to having a smaller mortgage than her London-based contemporaries – due to living in Salford with her partner, artist Pawlo Wintoniuk. She is writing a play and, with Frankcom, planning a seventh Manchester collaboration, which remains under wraps. A new play or a classic? “Ah. A bit of both, really,” says the director, tantalisingly. Moffat, meanwhile, plans more scripts for The Village and is also working on a stage monologue for Peake about a standup comedian.

“I’ve done 30 hours of television with her now,” says Moffat, “and she has never spoken a line of mine wrongly. There has never been an interpretation that jarred, which is very rare. She has this native actor’s intelligence for what you intended or even sometimes to go beyond that and show you something you didn’t know was there.”

“I simply wouldn’t be able to predict what sort of work she’d be doing in five years,” says Frankcom. “And that tells you a lot about her.”

Potted Profile

Born: 14 July, 1974, Bolton

Career: Initially rejected by every drama school in the north-west, accepted at Rada at 21. Her breakthrough roles were in TV comedies by northern writers: Paul Abbott’s Shameless and Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies. Although Peake’s career has subsequently gone into very different areas, Wood was a crucial early mentor.

High point: A feat of learning and performance, requiring extraordinary levels of vocal and physical power, The Skriker (at the Manchester Royal Exchange until 18 July) is the perfect showcase for her talents.

Low point: Her early rejection raises worrying questions about possible class and social prejudice in drama recruitment.

She says: “I’m old-fashioned. I don’t like modern life. I pine for the simplicity of the past and the connections people had.”

They say: “In her Chairman Mao suit and David Bowie hair, Peake uses every part of the stage, every prop, every poise of the body to deliver a 400-year-old script as if the words have just come to her.” – Manchester Evening News on her Hamlet


Maxine Peake backs Jeremy’s bid

Actor Maxine Peake has this evening given her backing to Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to be leader of the Labour Party.

Maxine said: “For me Jeremy Corbyn is our only beacon of hope to get the Labour Party back on track, get the electorate back in touch with politics and save this country from the constant mindless bullying of the vulnerable and poor. Aspirational? Surely we should all aspire that everyone living in this country has the right to a decent quality of life.”


In pictures: 1,576 walkers stride out to raise £130,000 at Bolton Hospice’s 2015 Midnight Memories walk

HUNDREDS of men, women and children strode out and pledged £130,000 for Bolton Hospice in the biggest Midnight Memories Walk yet.

Actress Maxine Peake joined the Bolton Hospice Midnight Memories Walk

More than 1,500 people – 500 more than last year – took part in the eight-mile challenge in aid of Bolton Hospice.

Walkers set off from the starting line in Victoria Square at 10pm on Saturday, with the first walkers returning to the square by midnight.

This year marked the ninth annual Midnight Memories Walk – with the event having raised more than £2 million for Bolton Hospice since it was first staged.

It was the first time the walk had begun at the earlier time of 10pm in a bid to encourage more families to take part.

Five colleagues from Bolton Lock Company, based in Westhoughton, decided to take on the challenge together.

None of them had taken part in the Midnight Memories Walk before but Emma Greeley, aged 27, from Atherton, 43—year-old Eileen Bacon and Debra O’connor, aged 46, both from Westhoughton, and Deleen Wilkinson, aged 36, and 38-year-old Cathy Pendlebury, both from Hindley, were determined to do what they could for Bolton Hospice.

Emma said: “I think the hospice is fantastic. It is really important that people always have access to this kind of care when they need it.”

Cathy added: “We are walking for loved ones, friends and relatives. If you can give something back to this place, which has provided help to so many people who are suffering, then that is a great thing.”

Debra said: “It is always good to help local charities – they are always there for us.”

Walkers left Victoria Square and travelled up Chorley New Road to the Beehive roundabout before coming back to Bolton town centre.

Some walkers purchased special LED wristbands which illuminated at midnight in a moving tribute to lost loved ones.

The memory of Brian Ormrod was very much alive for his widow Carole Ormrod, aged 61, and 36-year-old daughter Joanne Hacking.

The pair, both from Hall i’th’ Wood, had taken part in the Midnight Memories Walk before but dedicated this year’s event to Brian, who died on April 9 this year after suffering from cancer.

Carole said: “The hospice is an amazing place. Brian did not go there but I have had friends who did, and the care they got was absolutely superb.

“We have done the walk before and it has always been a great atmosphere. This year it will be especially poignant for us because of Brian.”

Joanne added: “We are hoping to raise about £100 each to help the hospice – it is such an important cause.”

Guest of honour at the event was Westhoughton-born actor Maxine Peake, whose mother Glenys died in Bolton Hospice in 2008, at the age of 66, after suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Maxine said: “My mum died in Bolton Hospice seven years ago after spending her last days there.

“I am so grateful to the staff – they were just amazing and let me stay with her.

“Bolton Hospice should be a facility that everyone who is going through that can have access to.

“My mum was very lucky – really, you cannot put a price on what they provide.”

Maxine added: “I was really honoured when the hospice asked if I would get involved.

“They hold fantastic events for the whole community to get involved with. Everybody has been touched by cancer in some way, or knows someone who has been.”

For Horwich colleagues Sheila Biggins, aged 48, and 41-year-old Jade Fielding, the respect the hospice has from the Bolton community was clear.

The friends, who both work for Bolton West Royal Mail, were given £300 in sponsorship by colleagues in just half an hour after signing up to take part.

Jade said: “The fact we were given so many donations so quickly shows how much the hospice means to people.”

Sheila said: “My dad died in a hospice, and I believe they are better than hospitals for end of life care.

“Patients get a better quality of life there – it is peaceful, and the staff and the care they provide is fantastic.”

The Little Lever Sports Club rounders team swapped bats and balls for trainers and deely-boppers to take on the walk together.

Barbara Goulding, from Little Lever, was set to complete her fourth Midnight Memories Walk.

The 59-year-old said: “My dad died five years ago and he spent the end of his life at the hospice.

“Both the care they gave him and the help they gave to us as his family was just totally amazing.

“You do not realise how much you need somewhere like Bolton Hospice until the time comes when it happens to you.”

Friends Joanne Gallop, aged 30, and 24-year-old Kirsty Green had never completed the walk before – and admitted they hadn’t undertaken any training but hoped they would be ‘alright on the night’.

Joanne, from Breightmet, said: “Cancer is a cause close to my heart because my gran had eye cancer, my aunty had breast cancer and a friend had bladder cancer.”

Kirsty, from Great Lever, added: “As the walk gets going I think it will be very emotional. Everyone will have someone they are thinking of.”

Maria Passarello, events manager at Bolton Hospice, said: “We are so proud and thankful for every walker, every volunteer, every sponsor and supporter of our ninth Midnight Memories Walk.

“Our earlier start time of 10pm proved to be a success and we had more than 1,500 people join us on the night.

“Men, women and children came together to walk in memory of loved ones and support the work of the hospice by raising vital funds.

“We are thrilled that £130,000 was pledged on the night – this figure exceeds our target and it is all thanks to our supporters.

“The atmosphere on the night was uplifting and heart-warming with so many well wishes for our hospice.

“To everyone who took part – you certainly made this a memorable, meaningful and magical evening.”

See all our pictures from the event here.


Anti-austerity protests: Who are the famous faces involved in mass demonstration this Saturday?

Saturday’s anti-austerity protests will feature a few famous faces. What do they have to say about why they’re getting involved?

On Saturday a massive anti austerity protest will sweep through London, starting in the Bank of England and marching to the House of Parliament.

More than 70,000 people have said they’ll march in the demonstration organised by anti-cuts group The People’s Assembly.

But it won’t just be students and unknown activists.

Actors, campaigners and union bosses are getting involved – some of whom you’ll recognise from films and TV shows.

So who are the famous faces, and why are they giving the demonstration their backing? Here’s our full run-down.

The Silk star has been involved in protesting outside parliament to mark the birthday of the Magna Carta.

The rally sought to highlight the importance of the document which forms the basis of our laws today.

“Direct action is the only way to stem the constant ruthless attacks on our society by this arrogant and vicious system,” she said.

“If we don’t stand up we will lose our most precious assets. Assets that have been fought so long and hard for.

“The NHS, Our public services, Legal Aid, the list goes on.

“We don’t have to take it, so we do have to Stand up on June 20th. Now is our time to say ‘We can see through your lies, Stop your mindless bullying- No More!'”


Maxine Peake to join Bolton Hospice’s Midnight Memories walk

HAMLET star Maxine Peake is famed for treading the boards — but later this month she will be pounding the pavements at this year’s Midnight Memories walk.

The actress will be joined at the starting line with her pal Emma Neville, wife of footballer Gary, to help raise money for the hospice’s annual fundraiser.

Maxine, aged 40, became vice president of Bolton Hospice two years ago after her mum Glenys died in 2008 and has supported the its campaigns ever since.

She said: “I am again very honoured to be asked to take part in an event for Bolton Hospice. I am very proud to be associated with this exceptional organisation. They took wonderful care of my mum during her final days and for that I will always be indebted. The hospice is a vital resource and has been a blessing to its patients and their families. So let’s dig deep and raise as much as we can and support our wonderful walkers.”

On the night, June 20, Maxine and Emma will be joined by more than 1,500 men, women and children who have all signed up to walk for their own personal reasons.

Mrs Neville said: “Everyone knows someone affected by cancer and this is a cause close to my heart. I am hoping to raise much needed sponsorship so that the hospice can continue their fantastic work caring for patients and families who are facing incurable illnesses. I will be proud to walk at the front for all these patients.”

To date this event has raised over £2 million for the hospice and organisers are hoping to raise a further £100,000 this year.

Maria Passarello, events manager at the hospice, said: “It is fantastic that both Maxine and Emma are joining us for this year’s Midnight Memories Walk. Their support of this event shows how important it is for those taking part and for the hospice. We are truly grateful to have them on board.”

Registration for the Midnight Memories Walk, which starts at 10pm on Saturday, June 20 closes on Sunday. To sign up or for more information visit


Actor Peake backs bike ride to flag up Palestine’s plight

ACTOR Maxine Peake praised hundreds of cyclists yesterday who will ride from Edinburgh to London to raise awareness of Israel’s abuses against the Palestinian people.

The Big Ride, which starts on August 1, will cover 474 miles in nine days and will also raise money for charity the Middle East Children’s Alliance (Meca).

Organiser Dermot MacWard said: “We’re planning for hundreds of cyclists to join us in one of the largest mass-participation cycling events of its kind in Britain.”

He said it would draw attention to the “long and horrendous suffering” imposed on Palestinians by the Israeli government.

Ms Peake said: “Hopefully, this terrific event will go some way to forcing our government to wake up and take responsibility. I wish all participants a fun-packed ride and may your bum be not so numb.”


In praise of … Maxine Peake

It’s not unusual for actors and other well-known figures to lend their support to worthy causes.
The general way of these things is that, when a celebrity can be prevailed on to actually turn up at a protest or other event, their arrival is carefully choreographed: they tend to sweep in accompanied by an entourage, deliver a rousing few words to the suitably dazzled throng, and then sweep out again just as quickly.

Maxine Peake does things rather differently.

The actor, best known for her portrayal of gritty-northern- criminal-silk-with-a-heart-of- gold Martha Costello QC, is just as much a champion of legal aid off screen as she is on.

Peake turned up, unaccompanied, to the Justice Alliance’s Magna Carta protest in February this year, and waited around in the cold for well over an hour before taking to the stage to read key clauses from Magna Carta.
The event was timed to coincide with the government’s infamous £1,750 a ticket global law summit.

Peake has form when it comes to defending legal aid. Her presence, a year earlier, at the March 2014 ‘Grayling day’ demo helped ensure that press photographers were out in force and that the event received a level of media coverage unprecedented for a legal aid protest.

Unsurprisingly, Peake has won fans among lawyers on Twitter and elsewhere. After the Magna Carta protest, one tweeted: ‘Some fake QCs are lovely people.’ Another commented: ‘She probably knows more about law than Grayling.’

Fiona Bawdon


Race for Life 2015 TV Ad – Join The Pink Army

Earlier this year Maxine did a voice over for the Race for Life / Pink Army campaign. You can watch the video below:

Whether you walk, jog or charge around your chosen Race for Life event, take your place in the fight against cancer and sign up now!

Listen: Bolton actress Maxine Peake records track called Loathsome Dave to strongly oppose reinstatement of David Cameron as prime minister

BOLTON actress Maxine Peake is urging people unhappy with last week’s general election result to “start standing up, asking questions and causing trouble”.

The acclaimed stage and screen star, who grew up in Westhoughton, has teamed up with The Eccentronic Research Council to “strongly oppose the reinstatement” of David Cameron as Prime Minister.

The Silk and Shameless actress said she was “heartbroken” after the Conservative Party swept to power in Britain’s parliamentary elections on Thursday.

She now fears a bleak five years with policies including the party further cutting benefits, the threat of privatisation of the NHS and negotiations through The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The 40-year-old had completed her postal vote and was holidaying in France when she heard the “devastating news” that Cameron had won the election and returned to Downing Street with an outright majority.

She contacted her musician pals, The Eccentronic Research Council, who penned the track Loathsome Dave within a matter of minutes and sent Maxine the words to record on her phone.

Lyrics of the eerie and unsettling spoken word track include “you are not food parcel and share a flat with a stranger Dave, you are 5 houses and my tax — Oh Witney Crab eyed & Bumble Dave”.

Maxine, who was given Bolton Socialist Club’s award for Outstanding Contribution to Socialism last year, said: “I was in shock and particularly heartbroken about what we had decided upon for this government.

“It was just about doing something immediate and just catching the mood we were feeling — come on, let’s get angry, and there’s a lot of humour in there as well.

“I just want people to mobilise really.

“We can’t let this happen, it’s going to be a very long and painful five years.

“We have got to start standing up, asking questions and causing trouble.

“It’s shocking and it’s tantamount to cruelty, forcing people into poverty.”

Loathsome Dave — The Eccentronic Research Council and Maxine Peake

Loathsome Dave

you have not won the battle

but dug deep the grave..

from your Westminster Death Circus

Smug Yee and Lonesome-

anti humanity, pro Selfish and Dave !

Your voice is not our voice but that of

A limp Witney Croak in the wind,

Spiteful humidity and asthma Dave

you are not like us,

you are not food parcel and share a flat with a stranger Dave,

you are 5 houses and my tax – Oh Witney Crab eyed & Bumble Dave,

High Teas and Snobbish Flea Brain

Ladies panties and flip flops Dave

a face that looks like it’s walked in to a hot Iron and ordered a half a lager Dave!

Yee – the blue tied toff dinky winky Dick Turpin dave

the thief dancing on all posterity and hostile to the disabled — rave!

Blast him Out

Anti Intelligence and negligent Dave

You are not Us,

Your Voice is not Ours,

Blast Him Out!

we are the eccentronic research council

and we are not Dave.