The Comic Strip takes on Rebekah Brooks in first look at new special Red Top

Can Maxine Peake, Russell Tovey and Stephen Mangan hack it?

The Comic Strip’s upcoming satire Red Top has released a new image of its all-star cast.

The special, which will focus on Rebekah Brooks (Maxine Peake) and the phone hacking scandal, will air on Gold on January 20.

L to R – Bob Harris (Peter Richardson), Wendi (Eleanor Matsuura), Coulson (Russell Tovey), Rebekah (Maxine Peake), Blair (Stephen Mangan), Johnny (Johnny Vegas), Ross (Harry Enfield)

Alongside Peake, the show will star Nigel Planer as Rupert Murdoch, Russell Tovey as Andy Coulson and Harry Enfield as Ross Kemp.

Red Top will also star Stephen Mangan, Johnny Vegas and Peter Richardson.

It is described as the story of Rebekah, “an innocent and beguiling Northern girl​” who becomes Chief Executive of News International​ through a series of accidental circumstances and gets tied-up in a “’70s Watergate-style scandal​”.

The Comic Strip previously parodied Tony Blair in The Hunt For Tony Blair.


Actors Shaun Evans and Maxine Peake perform Liverpool’s Penny Readings to sold-out audience

The traditional event was held at St. George’s Hall on Sunday

City of Readers members with Maxine Peake and Shaun Evans and Whitefield Primary staff

Actors Shaun Evans and Maxine Peake performed the annual Penny Readings to a sold-out audience today.

The traditional event, which dates back to the Victorian times when Charles Dickens once performed the readings, was held in St George’s Hall .

Special readings, music and entertainment were put on at the event, all for the price of a penny.

City of Readers members with Maxine Peake and Whitefield Primary staff

City of Readers members with Maxine Peake and Whitefield Primary staff

Liverpool-born actor Shaun Evans , from ITV drama Endeavour, performed the penny readings with actress Maxine Peake, known for her roles in The Theory of Everything, Shameless and Dinnerladies.

The penny readings take place every year and have become a much loved feature of Liverpool’s festival calendar.

Previous readers include ECHO editor Alastair Machray, TV presenter Loyd Grossman and Roger Phillips, BBC Radio Merseyside broadcaster.


VOTE: Best Play finalists in the CityLife Awards 2015

This year, you get to choose who takes this coveted title in our annual awards, which recognise the people and places who made the most of the last 12 months

We reckon 2015 has been a monumental year for theatre in Manchester.

Not only have our theatres created several critically acclaimed productions, but we’ve seen entirely new production houses opening – specifically HOME – and others push themselves in bold new ways under new artistic directors. Not to mention the return of the biennial Manchester International Festival.

The Best Play category was one we had quite a lot of nominations for and that caused some serious debate in CityLife Towers, too.

But in the end, we’ve picked a selection that we think show the full breadth of what Manchester theatres experienced in the past 12 months: Manchester writers, original work, bold roles taken on by local big name actors, plus the absolute best of the visiting productions.

After much debate, then, this is our final shortlist of five:
Pomona, Royal Exchange
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time, The Lowry
A View From The Bridge, Bolton Octagon
The Skriker, Manchester International Festival/Royal Exchange
Golem, HOME

All that’s left to do is choose, and you can do that by picking your favourite on the form below.

Vote here: source

Giving Tuesday – Royal Exchange launches scheme to get more people attending theatre

Today is Giving Tuesday and the Royal Exchange Theatre has the perfect gift for theatre lovers.

To coincide with the global day of giving, the city centre theatre has launched a scheme called Arts Pot.

The initiative is a bursary which helps towards the cost of tickets, travel expenses, workshop and project fees for people who may not otherwise be able to attend plays and shows.

Last year, the scheme raised more than £10,000 thanks to the generosity of the venue’s audiences during interval and end-of-show ‘bucket shaking’.

Above is a short film narrated by theatre ambassador Maxine Peake, who has starred in many production and the famous theatre in the round, including Hamlet and The Skriker as part of MIF 2015, showing exactly where that cash went.

Maxine Peake as a demon faerie in The Skriker.

ARTS POT 2014 paid for:

296 People to take part in over 1000 workshops, community projects and productions

1183 people to receive free and subsidised tickets to more than 20 shows at the Royal Exchange Theatre

125 people to travel to and from the theatre throughout the year

The Royal Exchange is working with other local charities, organisations and Giving Tuesday in a steering group for ‘Manchester Gives More’ – a city initiative to make Manchester the most philanthropic city in the country.

Donations to Arts Pot can be made online or by texting EXCH16 £5 to 70070.


Maxine Peake and Shaun Evans to take the stage as star readers for the Penny Readings 2015

Maxine Peake and Shaun Evans to take the stage as star readers for the Penny Readings 2015

The Penny Readings 2015
Sunday 13th December, 6.30pm
St George’s Hall (Concert Room), Liverpool L1 1JJ

The Reader’s annual festive extravaganza the Penny Readings returns to St George’s Hall this December. Now in its twelfth year, the ever-popular event promises reading alongside music and entertainment in abundance with a programme that will start your Christmas season in style.

Actress Maxine Peake (Silk, The Village, The Theory of Everything, Shameless, Dinnerladies) will take to the stage as star reader for the Penny Readings 2015, alongside Liverpool-born actor Shaun Evans (Endeavour, Whitechapel, The Scandalous Lady W).

Due to high demand, general sale tickets are now SOLD OUT.

Shared reading group members and The Reader volunteers will receive confirmation of their priority reserved tickets during the week commencing Monday 23rd November.

Please be aware, there are no afternoon Ha’penny Readings taking place this year. Children and young people can attend the Penny Readings with an ordered ticket.

With thanks to Publiship for supporting the Penny Readings 2015.
– See more at:


‘Our melting, shifting, liquid world’: celebrities read poems on climate change

Actors including James Franco, Ruth Wilson, Gabriel Byrne, Maxine Peake, Jeremy Irons, Kelly Macdonald and Michael Sheen read a series of 21 poems on the theme of climate change, curated by UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Includes two bonus poems from Byrne and Franco

Maxine Peake
reads A Mancunian Taxi-driver Foresees His Death by Michael Symmons Roberts

On a radio show some self-help guru says

the earth will burn out in a hundred years

so treat each day as an eternity.

I am in a taxi when I hear this news,

airport-bound on the flyover

with my home town spread like a map below.

So my driver slams his foot to the floor,

and tells me that when the oil runs out

he will ship this cab to Arizona,

find the last fill-up on the planet,

drain the pump and power out into the wilderness

until the car coughs, then abandon it.

He will take from the dash this shot of his daughters,

his shark’s tooth on its chain,

then leave the radio with an audience

of skulls and vultures. I wind the window down

to catch my breath and ask what kind

of funeral is that? Then him: It’s just a made-up one.

He drops me by the long-haul sign

and I give him a tip well over the odds.

As I stand with my bags it begins to rain.

A man smiles down from a floodlit billboard

– well insured, invested, sound –

which leaves me feeling heartsore, undefended.

Maxine Peake
reads Doggerland by Jo Bell

The land bridge connecting Great Britain to mainland Europe during the last Ice Age was gradually flooded by rising sea levels around 6,500 BC. It was discovered in 1931 when a Norfolk trawler dredged up an unexpected artefact.

Out from Cromer in an easy sea, Pilgrim Lockwood

cast his nets and fetched up a harpoon.

Twelve thousand years had blunted not one barb.

An antler sharpened to a spike, a bony bread knife

from a time of glassy uplands and no bread:

Greetings from Doggerland, it said.

It’s cold. We answer ice with elk and mammoth, larks

and people like you. We are few. We hunt and eat and walk

and then move on, or fall. There are midges

but you can’t have everything. We fish or fowl;

we stalk carp-fat lagoons with ivory spears.

Our softened swamps are thick with eels. We sing.

Pilgrim felt his feet transparent on the deck, a sailor

treading uplands sixty fathoms back; saw nettled deer tracks

pooling, inch by sodden inch, into a whaler’s channel;

inlands islanded and highlands turned to shipping hazards,

fellsides lessened to a knuckled string; the sly brine

loosing peat from longbones, locking snails into the bedrock.

He turned for harbour, kissed the quoins of every house

and took to hillwalking. Time, he said, was water:

water, time. At neap tides he felt England’s backbone

shift and shiver; saw the caverns fill, the railways rivered

and the Pennine mackerel flashing through lead mines,

the last dove lifting from the summit of Lose Hill.


Maxine Peake reveals reasons she wrote play about cyclist Beryl Burton which comes to Birmingham Rep

The actress has written her first play about sporting heroine

She’s the unsung sporting heroine who is finally getting her time in the spotlight, thanks to Maxine Peake.

The actress and star of Silk, The Village and Shameless has written her first play about Beryl Burton, a champion cyclist in the 1950s.

Beryl, now coming to Birmingham Rep, is a thrilling play about the trials, tribulations and loves of the Yorkshirewoman who was five times world pursuit champion, twice road-racing world champion and won an astonishing 96 national titles.

Asked in the 1980s why she continued to ride long distances every week and race against men and women half her age, Beryl replied “because I like cycling”.

In 1967 when she overtook Mike McNamara in a trial on her way to setting a record, she nonchalantly offered him a Liquorice Allsort.

The play Beryl was originally written for Radio 4 in 2012, then staged last year at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

It’s directed by Rebecca Gatward and stars Samantha Power (last seen in Coronation Street as Dev’s friend Talisa) in the title role and Rebecca Ryan (Debbie Gallagher in Shameless) as her daughter Denise, also a cyclist.

Maxine Peake says: “I do a bit of cycling myself and had just gone on to a racing bike.

“But I’d never heard of this inspiring woman before my boyfriend gave me a copy of Beryl’s autobiography, with the inscription ‘Get yourself a tight perm and there’s a film in this for you’!

“I’d never done any writing, but I was fascinated by this story. I started wondering if it would work better on radio, with the whirr of bikes, the click of chains and the sound of tyres on the open road, so I was a bit cheeky and asked the commissioner of BBC radio drama if he would commission me to do it.

“I expected him to say ‘no’, so I could say at least I’d tried, but then he told me to go ahead, so I had to keep at it.

“I wanted to introduce people to Beryl and for them to go away thinking ‘wow, she was some woman’.

“I want more and more people to know about Beryl because I just think she’s so inspiring. So it’s fantastic that the play is going further afield out on tour because her story does have this universal appeal.

“If I ever get another writing commission, I know there are more stories out there of forgotten women, whether it’s in politics or sport or wherever, and if I had a daughter, they would be the sort of role models I’d like her to have.

“Writing for the radio and the stage are things I might not have had a go at when I was younger and scared that I might not be any good at them. But as you get older you get more fearless.”

Beryl plays Birmingham Rep from November 24-28 2015. Get your tickets here


12 movies you mustn’t miss at York’s festival of short films: Strange Weather starring Maxine Peake

12 movies you mustn’t miss at York’s festival of short films: Strange Weather starring Maxine Peake

t’s time to crank up the industrial-sized popcorn-maker if you want to munch along with the 300 or so mini movies on offer at the fifth annual Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

There’s a packed programme of screenings, masterclasses and panel discussions at 15 York venues over four days.

Among the many highlights are Eleanor, starring Golden Globe-winning actress Ruth Wilson (The Affair), thriller Strange Weather, starring Maxine Peake (Shameless) and blood-splattered black comedy Dark_Net, starring Johnny Vegas (of getting drunk and being funny fame).

TV star Maxine Peake flexes her not inconsiderable acting muscles in Strange Weather , a Loose Change Films production by Tom Shrapnel, that explores what happens when two people witness a mysterious natural phenomenon that reawakens their senses and draws their fractured lives together.


Maxine Peake: Real voices, real lives – the inspirational Ewan MacColl

He thought albums were a self-indulgence and said his favourite songwriter was ‘Anon’. Actor Maxine Peake pays tribute to the man who inspired her to act, write – and even relocate to Salford

Maxine Peake. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

I can’t recall the exact moment that I became aware of Ewan MacColl and his music. My grandparents were active members of the Communist party and, as a child, I spent weekends and school holidays at their house, where the records of MacColl and Paul Robeson were always playing. My grandad also loved Lada cars and goods procured from the eastern bloc.

Still, I know when I was first inspired by him. At 16, I went to Salford College of Technology on a two-year performing arts course, where I learned about Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop. I found out she had been married to MacColl before he had taken his stage name, when he was still known as Jimmie Miller. They were artists ahead of their time. The couple met through The Theatre of Action, a revolutionary drama group, and were the first to introduce the Stanislavsky system of acting to the UK. Their work inspired me to apply for drama school.

MacColl eventually drifted away from theatre, focusing increasingly on music. In this, the centenary year of his birth, what should we make of his life and work? The celebrated folk singer tended not to think of songwriting as work at all, and not only because he’d been writing tunes for as long as he could talk. The very term songwriter jarred with him: it spoke of individual endeavour. He thought of song-making as ongoing conversation with what had come before.

His sources were wide: early songs written for his Manchester street troupe, the Red Megaphones, echoed German or Soviet models; The Manchester Rambler, written when he was 16, drew on popular waltzes and music hall; The Joy of Living, a late song from 1986, refashioned a Sicilian folk tune.

In 1957, radio producer Charles Parker asked him and Peggy Seeger, his third wife and long-term collaborator, to write a radio play about John Axon, a steam locomotive driver whose heroism cost him his life when he attempted to rescue his runaway train. MacColl met Axon’s widow and workmates to record their memories. Listening to the recordings, he realised that the real voices were more affecting than any an actor could reproduce. Combining their voices with his songs, he created The Ballad of John Axon – and a new form of radio was born.

MacColl, Seeger and Parker went on to create seven more of these dazzling sonic experiments, taking as their subjects working-class lives including miners, fishermen, and the men who built the M1. Using real voices in a dramatic context was unheard of at the time, especially those of the working class. Those ballads were a huge influence on me. When I wrote my first piece for radio, about the legendary cyclist Beryl Burton, we recorded interviews with Beryl’s husband Charlie and their daughter Denise, then wove their stories through the piece.

As the leader of the postwar new folk revival, MacColl had rigid ideas. He exhorted young musicians to retrieve the lost folk music of their own regions and nations. And any new songs they wrote should be extensions of those traditions. (For him, the greatest compliment for a new song was that it was indistinguishable from “the tradition”.) The Singers’ Club, which MacColl founded in 1961, introduced the notorious policy that only those who shared these values were welcome to perform. MacColl’s own songwriting, thankfully, always remained far more eclectic than his theory.

Still, those who went to MacColl’s concerts or bought his records expecting to hear his compositions would seldom hear more than a sprinkling. Some of his best-known songs were never even recorded by him, including The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, a love song for Peggy Seeger. Not until 1983, when he was 68, did MacColl record an LP of his own songs. (His sleevenotes suggesthe was embarrassed at what he saw as self-indulgence.)

His own favourite songwriter was “Anon” – predecessors whose identities were forgotten but whose music remained, and he was forever uneasy with consolidating a personal legacy of his songs for posterity, in case it breached the spirit of that collective tradition. His prolific output became clear only in 2001, thanks to Peggy Seeger’s labour of love, The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook: Sixty Years of Songmaking. That book showed MacColl’s legacy lay not in the unperformed plays, archived broadcasts or even the deleted LPs, but in a body of more than 300 songs. MacColl was never interested in being a major songwriter of the 20th century – but he became one anyway.

After many years living in London, I decided to move back north. I chose Salford largely due to its socialist pedigree, of which MacColl is such a key part. A particular draw was the wonderful Working Class Movement Library, started by Ruth and Eddie Frow, friends of MacColl, which hosts an annual celebration of MacColl and his work. I still get great pleasure from informing people that Dirty Old Town is not about Dublin at all, but about my beloved Salford.

• A double CD, Joy of Living: A Tribute to Ewan MacColl, is out now on Cooking Vinyl Records. Blood & Roses, a tribute concert is at the the Lowry theatre, Salford, 4 November, the Sage, Gateshead, 5 November, and the Barbican, London, 9 November. Additional contributions by Ben Harker, author of Class Act: The Political and Cultural Life of Ewan MacColl.


Campaigner Betty Tebbs, 97, who fought for equal pay at the East Lancs Paper Mill, honoured by Maxine Peake

STAR of stage and screen Maxine Peake was among those celebrating a lifelong campaigner’s achievements at a special “This is your Life” style evening.

Inspirational Betty Tebbs found herself centre stage at Bolton Socialist Club being applauded by the acclaimed actor, family, friends and those who have heard about her remarkable achievements and the work she continues to do at the age of 97 to make a difference.

Mrs Tebbs, a seasoned peace and women’s right campaigner, said: “It was absolutely wonderful .

“Maxine read out passages from my book and the place was packed.

“I have been around a lot and this was something different.”

Mrs Tebbs, who lives in Prestwich, spent 18 years at the East Lancs Paper Mill in Radcliffe, where she stood outside every day for two weeks asking for a job and where the female workers became the highest paid women in the British paper industry, after she questioned why men were getting paid more for work of the same value.

Mrs Tebbs, who lost her husband in the Second World War, became a peace campaigner after seeing newspaper reports of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, campaigning through the Ban the Bomb movement and CND.

After moving to Warrington, she set up a refuge for victims of domestic violence and worked with abused women there for many years.

As Chair of the National Assembly for Women she attended many international conferences to advance women’s rights and to promote peace.

In 1986 at the height of the Cold War she spoke to 10,000 people in the Lenin Stadium in Moscow and met both the USSR and USA nuclear non-proliferation negotiating teams in Geneva.

In 2007, approaching her 90th birthday, she was taken into police custody when taking part in demonstrations against Trident at the Faslane submarine base.

More recently, Mrs Tebbs joined the anti-austerity march at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester earlier this month, as the government pledges another £100 million to a replacement for Trident and promotes nuclear annihilation as a reasonable defence strategy.

Only last week, the remarkable woman was inspiring those at the GMB Women’s Conference in Liverpool with her speeches.

She has been friends with Maxine Peake ever since her work brought her in contact with the actor at a CND event two years ago.

Mrs Tebbs said: “I was at the Peterloo Memorial March and Maxine sent over young women to talk to me.”

She added: “I feel what is the point of life if you do not do something useful with it?

“I am very lucky, I have a good family, I am to live the way I do because of the care of my daughter, and other members of my family and friends I have made in the peace movement and the other groups.

“That is a big reward, I am very lucky.”

Photos from the event can be found here.