New Article: Actor and writer Maxine Peake takes it to the max

New Article: Actor and writer Maxine Peake takes it to the max

The Oxford Times published a truly, inspiring interview with Maxine yesterday morning. Read it below and I can assure you won’t be disappointed:

Katherine MacAlister speaks to actor/ writer Maxine Peake about Beryl Burton

It’s no that surprise Maxine Peake chose the life of Beryl Burton to kick off her career as a playwright, because the two have so much in common. Both are Northern, both battled against sexist, conformist, old-fashioned rules to get where they wanted, with as little fanfare, fuss and bother as possible. Both have a ferocious work ethic, no-nonsense approach and wonderful sense of humour. Both trained hard, fought hard and succeeded in their fields.

Maxine Peake and Beryl Burton are worthy opponents then and perfect subject matter for the inspirational talks at the new Ruskin Theatre, because apart from being one of the most diverse and sought-after actresses, Maxine is desperate to discuss her new passion: writing.

Her debut play for Radio 4 celebrates the extraordinary sporting achievements of Morley cyclist Beryl Burton, MBE, OBE, five-times world champion, 13-times national champion, twice road-racing world champion and 12-times national champion.

“I’d spent so many mornings drinking coffee with fellow actresses complaining how they were always playing mistresses, wives and mothers. And of course those are important roles, but there is more to women than that, so I thought I’d better dip my toe in and seize the opportunity. If you fail, you fail, but I’m too old and ugly to worry about that.”

Neither old nor ugly, Maxine has never been more in demand, with parts in Dinnerladies, Shameless, Criminal Justice, Silk and most recently The Village making her one of the most in-demand actors in Britain.

Even so, she refuses to take it for granted. “They say when you hit 40 the roles start drying up so I’m preparing myself with an alternative career. But I do think women get more interesting as they get older, that was my view even when I was younger.”

I agree with everything she says about women get more interesting as they get older – not only as human beings but just take a look at different actresses’ careers. For example, there’s Alex Kingston in Doctor Who, Helen McCrory in Peaky Blinders, or Jessica Lange being introduced to a whole new generation (google American Horror Story).
So if there’s a chance writers can have a bit of influence on this matter please please write more striking roles for women. It is fair to say that these days we’re past the housewife cliché and don’t need one-sided characters anymore. There is more to women, isn’t it?

When she was younger of course, acting was the last thing on her mind, Maxine setting her sights on becoming a writer or comedian: “I’d always imagined I’d go to university, meet like-minded people, start up a comedy group and it would go from there,” she laughs at her naivety. “But I didn’t get into uni, and had to fight hard to even get into drama school. It took years. I got used to being rejected, which is useful in this business.”

What kept her going? “I had a strong, Northern, working class, no-pain-no-gain attitude. And it hasn’t been easy. You have to fight for what you want.

“So, at drama school I always played the old woman rather than the pretty fox because I was big and Northern and they didn’t know what else to do with me. And yet it was the best training I could’ve had. How does a 23-year-old play a 64-year-old from the Deep South? I had to take it on.”

It wasn’t until Maxine pitched up on the set of Dinnerladies, alongside her all-time hero Victoria Wood, that her metamorphosis began. Wood sat the 15-stone, 23-year-old Maxine down and told her the business was tough and that she would always be typecast as a big, brash, blonde, Northerner if she didn’t lose weight. Maxine went on a diet. Once she reached her ideal wight she moved on, and up, and has refused to be typecast ever since.

“I had high blood pressure for a 23-year-old and was very unhealthy. If it didn’t go between two pieces of bread, I wasn’t interested. At drama school I was the only female in the canteen. I’m a bit of a sod like that though. I always do the opposite of everyone else, so I lost the weight begrudgingly.”

She’s been a size 12 ever since and eats healthily now, but doesn’t dwell on her weight. She’s more interested in the roles she plays. “I always start from scratch with a part. The difficulty is returning to a role because you have crafted this character and may disagree with the way they develop, but you have to accept it.”

So what next? “I haven’t lost my love of acting,” she says, but hopes to continue writing and is adapting her radio play Beryl for the stage, wanting to share her story with the world.

A feminist then? “Feminist? I think feminism is just about equality but I’ve never had a lack of confidence or thought women were the weaker sex. I think women are much stronger than men. They have to juggle more; careers, children and be the backbone of the family. That’s not to say men don’t but I do think women are stronger.”

This last paragraph captures exactly my thoughts and I admire Maxine for speaking it out loud and being honest because sadly, men still don’t seem to realize these days what it’s like if you aim “to have it all”. Of course, there are exceptions but, as for me studying in a more men-dominant, scientific field the equality along with thoughts on women’s strengths and flaws is still a problem sometimes.

Maxine does accept however that Beryl Burton needed the backing of her husband to succeed and he supported her 100 per cent. “In those days cycling was an amateur sport so they both made a lot of sacrifices, so Beryl is also a love story,” she says.

Does Maxine have a similar support network? “My partner Pawlr (pronounced Pavlo) is brilliant. He told me I must do it, even when I’m writing from 8am-11.30pm. And if I’m offered a job that takes me away from home he just says ‘go and do it if you want’. I’ve been out with actors who haven’t been that accommodating. But in the end it’s about getting off your backside and doing it for yourself. So while one part of me says ‘you can’t do this’, the other says ‘you have to’.”

My conclusion to this engaging interview is we should all take her as an example and give what we love our best because that’s what leads to success. We can see it has absolutely worked fine on Maxine’s part! 🙂

As for the Ruskin talk Maxine says it’s a Q&A session, but that she’s incredibly honoured to have been asked and that it’s a real privilege. I’m sure the feeling is mutual.

Ruskin Platforms
Ruskin Theatre, Dunstan Road, Old Headington, OX3 9BZ
Wednesday (March 5), 6.30pm
All events free – book tickets at


Maxine Peake: Actors and barristers are similar – they’re both show-offs

Maxine Peake: Actors and barristers are similar – they’re both show-offs

There’s an interesting, new interview with Maxine featured on the RadioTimes website which I’ve posted below.
Don’t forget Silk returns tonight with its third series on BBC One. Can’t wait! 🙂

Could you defend yourself in court if you had to?

No, I’d get too frustrated and emotional. Although the DVLA has just mistakenly taken my dad’s driving licence off him so I suggested I could represent him. I hope he knows I was joking!

Are there similarities between barristers and actors?

I’ve socialised with a few of them and their personalities are all very similar to actors. Basically, they’re show-offs. I was at drama school with several actors who went off to become barristers, so there’s a definite connection.

Have you attended court trials?

Every year I spend about three or four days at the Old Bailey. I’ll be ignored, but I took Rupert [co-star Rupert Penry-Jones] and the women went all a-flutter. You could see the female barristers and jurors getting all breathless and pink-cheeked. It was hilarious.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I love Splash! and Take Me Out. Not that I’d ever do Splash! It’s the parading on British TV in a swimming costume I couldn’t handle. I watch Take Me Out mainly for Paddy McGuinness. When we were younger we worked together as lifeguards at the Bolton Leisure Centre.

Did you ever save anyone?

No, we weren’t paying much attention, to be honest! We were always laughing too much. He was dead funny then and he’s not changed a bit.

Would you ever appear on Strictly or I’m a Celebrity..?

No, but if there was a celebrity One Man and His Dog, I’d be bang up for that. That show was so soothing and relaxing it was hypnotic.

Have you seen Benefits Street?

I’ve avoided it. Programmes like this add fuel to the fire of what I see as victimisation of the underclass in this country. I find it upsetting because the show is merely making a bad situation worse.

What shows do you never miss?

Toast of London is a must-watch. Matt Berry’s off-the-wall humour is slightly surreal and a little bit deviant. That’s why I also love House of Fools. Vic and Bob have always made me laugh and this is right up there with their best work.

What was your favourite show when you were a kid?

Citizen Smith. I used to make my grandad take me to the top of the multistorey car park so I could shout “Power to the people!” really loud.

Have you been watching the Winter Olympics?

No, I’m more of a rugby league girl. When I was 15 I played for Wigan Ladies for two years. But I wanted to go to drama school and I didn’t think a broken nose and cauliflower ear would help my cause. I made a couple of bad tackles on a girl and she quietly said if I did it again she’d kick my head in. Luckily, I could run fast.


Yes Minister or The Thick of It? The Thick of It

University Challenge or Question Time? University Challenge – I do have a little thing for Paxman.

Have I Got News For You or Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe? Have I Got News For You

Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay? Uurgh, cooking! Neither.

Pointless or Countdown? Pointless

Silk, tonight 9:00pm, BBC1


Maxine Peake’s salute to female cyclist rolls on to Yorkshire stage for Tour

Leeds bike champion Beryl Burton’s remarkable story will play in home city to coincide with Tour de France’s opening stages

For most actors, playing Hamlet would be enough for a single year – but in addition to leading a radical reimagining of that play, Silk star Maxine Peake will write one of her own as well.

The 39-year-old will make her playwrighting debut with an adaptation of Beryl: A Love Story on Two Wheels, her Sony award-nominated Radio 4 drama about the British cyclist Beryl Burton.

Beryl, which will be directed by Rebecca Gatward, opens at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in June, as part of the Yorkshire festival 2014, which also marks the start of this year’s Tour de France. The county hosts the Grand Départ, the first two stages of the famous long-distance race, on 5 and 6 July.

To celebrate, 47 cultural events will take place across the county over the preceding 100 days, including a choreographed mass cycle ride by illuminated cyclists, a film festival and a series of grass artworks along the race route itself.

Peake’s involvement is a major coup for both the festival and the theatre. Born and brought up in Bolton, she is a new associate artist at the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester and will play Hamlet there under artistic director Sarah Frankcom in the autumn.

Peake has previously spoken about the need for actors to carve out opportunities on their own terms, telling the Guardian in 2012: “We can’t keep moaning about [not getting the parts we want], let’s have a go.”

Hence her writing her debut play, though this time she won’t portray Burton herself.

Peake said she was given the cyclist’s autobiography, Personal Best, as a present and “was struck immediately by her strength and determination”. On approaching a radio producer about playing Burton she was told to write a script herself. The play went on to be nominated for best drama at the 2013 Sony awards and West Yorkshire Playhouse artistic director James Brining subsequently commissioned an adaptation.

Burton, who was born in Morley, West Yorkshire, in 1937, won more than 100 titles over the course of her career, including several in competition against male cyclists. She won national championships at 25, 50 and 100 miles, and for a quarter of a century held the title British best all-rounder for the fastest time across all three of those distances. Burton died in 1996.

“She was an amazing woman,” said Peake, “yet it felt to me that outside of cycling circles very few people have heard of her. Her achievements were nothing short of remarkable; her dedication, talent and sacrifice as a cyclist was incredible.

“She pushed herself to the limits in a sport that at that time rewarded her with little fame and fewer riches. She did it because she loved it, because she loved Leeds and the amateur cycling fraternity that backed her all the way.”

Peake added that she was delighted that the play would premiere in Leeds. “What better place to do [it] than in her home city?”

James Brining explained that that local interest was the motive behind commissing the piece. “I was offered about 10 cycling plays in the last 12 months, but the reason I was interested in this one was because Beryl Burton was born in Leeds and went on to become an extraordinary sportswoman without necessarily being recognised in her own time.”

Peake acknowledged that the theatre was taking a risk with the commission, describing it as “a bit of a punt, really”.

“I’ve written two radio plays, one about Beryl Burton and one about Anne Scargill, and now I’m writing a play for West Yorkshire Playhouse.”

The Yorkshire festival, which runs from 27 March to 6 July, is the first cultural programme to precede the Tour de France in its 111-year history. It will include two new giant sculptures by the Yorkshire-born artist Thomas Houseago, now based in Los Angeles; one is for Leeds city centre, the other for Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield.

Phoenix Dance Theatre will adapt its Cultural Olympiad commission Speed of Light, which saw runners in remote-controlled light suits sprinting up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, for a cycling team. As part of Ghost Peloton, 50 cyclists – road racers, stunt bikers and local enthusiasts – will don the luminescent outfits.


Maxine Peake: “I want to do Morley proud” with Beryl play

Acclaimed actress Maxine Peake has said she wants to do Morley and Beryl Burton proud with her stage play of the cycling legend’s life.

She was one of the special guests at the official launch of the Yorkshire Festival 2014, an event spanning 100 days of art and culture to celebrate the Tour De France coming to the county.

One of the highlights of the festival will be the premiere of Beryl, Maxine’s play about the life and career of the Morley-born cyclist, which she has adapted from her Radio 4 play.

The star said when she first discovered Beryl’s story she had been shocked by how many people outside of the cycling world hadn’t, which was why she decided to write the original radio play.

Six months later, James Brining, artistic director of West Yorkshire Playhouse, approached her with the offer to adapt the play for the Leeds stage as he was looking for a home grown project to celebrate the Tour de France coming to the city.

Maxine said she had dashed to the launch, in Holy Trinity Church in the city centre, from early workshop sessions of the production, where she was working with a director and four “fantastic” actors who were helping to “build it up and flesh it out”.

“But I can’t thank the West Yorkshire Playhouse enough,” she said.

“It’s a bit of a punt really, you know what I mean? I’ve written two radio plays, one about Beryl Burton and one about Anne Scargill, and now I’m writing a play for West Yorkshire Playhouse.

“So I’m very daunted but it’s also fantastic that it’s part of the Yorkshire Festival – although I am a proud Lancastrian.

“Thank you for letting me be part of this and I hope that I can do Leeds and Morley, Beryl Burton, Charlie Burton and Denise Burton and the cycling fraternity of Yorkshire proud with the piece.”


New Article: Maxine Peake, The Eccentronic Research Council and 1612 Underture

This is the full transcript of an interview with Maxine Peake and Adrian Anthony Flanagan of ECCENTRONIC RESEARCH COUNCIL, which was conducted to coincide with the ERC performance of 1612 Underture, an analog synth/spoken word suite inspired by the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612, at the National Gallery of Scotland on October 31st 2013 as part of the Halloween: By Night Event.

Neil Cooper: First of all, could you tell me how you first got involved in 1612 Underture?

Maxine Peake: It was all the fault of a well known networking site. I’d just been to see Chrome Hoof at Islington Mill in Salford and had typed a little paragraph of praise when I had a message saying if you like them you’ll like my band. it was a Mr Adrian Anthony Flanagan. We had a brief conversation about our respective music tastes, and then he enquired if I would appear in his video, which involved donning a rabbit suit and charging around Kersal Moor in Salford. After four months of intensive filming in London it was just what the doctor ordered.

We stayed in touch, mainly because I was hoping to steal the film footage from him while he was sleeping. Then the next thing I know I’m embroiled in some Kraut, prog, psychedelic, electronic fiasco. Needless to say, I steer well clear of social network sites theses days.

Adrian Flanagan: It’s all true. I wooed her with the offer of a bottle of Thunderbird, a pickled egg, a photo of Pat Phoenix and some Rockabilly records..Then the gypsy in me kicked in…You’re in my band now!

NC: The Pendle witch trials are still a relatively hidden piece of history. What was the initial motivation for making the album, and what did you want to get across?

AF: Maxine and I just got talking about the Pendle Witches one afternoon. We are both from Lancashire, her Bolton, me Salford, and we were both fascinated by the story. As a child, I used to get dragged up to Pendle Hill to go walking by my folks and be told tales of these scary, fiendish,women…but of course, when you’re a bit older and you read about them and you see how horrifically they we’re treated and how they were basically being used as scapegoats by the government, then you start seeing parallels with what’s going on now.

So Maxine and I went on a little road trip around the villages surrounding Pendle Hill. I came home back to Sheffield and started writing about it with one eye watching London burning in the riots, kids running around breaking things and hurting each other in Manchester and Birmingham, and similar things happening in Greece, Spain and, more recently, Turkey and Egypt. There was and still is this feeling that the whole nation is a ticking time bomb. People are completely fed up with how they are being treated by a government that we by and large didn’t even vote for.

We wouldn’t vote for liars, or for people whose only interest is that of protecting banks, major corporations and looking after their sort of people, which isn’t our kind of people..It’s almost like we are just some petty inconvenience, that if they strangle and starve enough, will go away!!..This anger, depression and poverty Is affecting everyone. For people that can’t articulate themselves, that anger manifests itself by breaking stuff and they then get called animals or scumbags. They are not animals. They are angry. Ignore that anger at your peril. My anger manifested itself in writing a story about modern Britain and the mistreatment of 17th century human beings, the so called Pendle Witches. I truly believe we are all outsiders, modern day witches. It wont be long before this government will be taking us all to Gallows Hill for having an opinion!

NC: What was the process of making the album, then? And what was it like working with musicians and effectively being in a band?

AF: After I got Maxine reading my story and prose to tape, Dean Honer, my musical partner in the ERC, and I set about building music around the different section’, almost sound tracking it. It was a very different process to how we would create say a pop song. It’s quite an enjoyable way to work actually, and brought us a new kind of freedom as musicians. It was great to truly see what the old analogue synthesisers could do, be a bit more experimental and noisy and damn the neighbours!

MP: I’m glad I only got involved this late in the game, else if I was younger I would have packed up and gone on the road for good, joining these merry pranksters, drinking myself into oblivion!

NC: How did you feel when the idea for performing the album live came up?
From the clips I’ve seen, although playing a part, it looks both far more exposing and far more personal than doing something for the telly or a stage play. How much was that the case, and just how personal did 1612 Underture become? Watching you read a litany of contemporary ills, you look very passionate.

MP: There was never any intention to perform it live. The vocals were recorded round at Dean Honer’s house in thirty minutes, and I believed it would be the end of that, but then Andy Votel from the label Finders Keepers records got in touch, and we got released it on Jane Weaver’s label, Bird.

The next thing I know, we were doing an album launch in Manchester. It was extremely chaotic, but great fun. I find the work with The ERC extremely exposing. In theatre you are to include the audience under the guise that you’re trying to get them to believe you’ve forgotten they are there.Speaking directly to them is very, very surreal for me. It is far more personal and far more difficult. I think it takes a certain personality to be a great front-person, and I think I’m cut from a very different cloth. I wanted to act to get far away from who I am.

Adrian and myself have very similar politics and which we discuss at length, so I am very passionate in my delivery because it’s what I believe.”

AF: The ERC is effectively just a studio project. We never thought we’d be doing it live or that anyone would really be bothered by what we see as being quite niche and a bit weird, but 1612 Underture seems to have really captured the imagination of the general public. We pretty much said from the start,we’ll just do a one-off launch party and a big festival show then move on to the next thing, but it’s taken on a life of its own. I think it will maintain a relevance for some time..

We can’t do big tours because of Maxine’s day job, and Dean’s got family commitments, but at the same time we don’t really want to do that either. I can’t think of anything worse than turning up at some O2/beer-sponsored sticky carpet flea-pit every night and just going through the motions, but once in a while an offer comes in asking us to play somewhere unusual, and if that offer is sweet and we are all available then we would consider it.You never know where the ERC are going to strike next.

Despite what Maxine says, she’s one of the best front people I’ve seen. She’s totally engaging. Her compassion, her honesty and heart shines through everything she does. There’s an element of acting and showmanship to all front people. It’s not so different, it’s just about learning the tricks. Just look at Mick Jagger. One day he’s in a nursing home with a tartan blanket over his knee, the next he’s pointing at an imaginary crowd member and doing high kicks at Glastonbury.

NC: You grew up in Bolton, quite close to Pendle. When did you first become aware of the witch trials, and what effect did that have on you?

MP:The Pendle witches had always been part of the folklore when I was growing up. No-one had ever explained to me their story properly, so I just deducted there was a hill not too far away where witches on broomsticks met to cause mayhem,which I thought was just a fairytale. It was only in my teens when my mother, Glenys, began working in Euxton, and told me there was a woman at her place of work who was a descendant of the Pendle witch, Alice Nutter, so I went down to Sweetens, my local bookshop in Bolton, and bought myself a book on the subject and started to read up.”

NC: In terms of pop culture, witches and witch trials are all over the show, from The Wizard of Oz to The Crucible to Witchfinder General, while the Pendle trials are referenced on The Fall’s Live at the Witch Trials album. (you might also want to check out these links -
– and, slightly tangentially - and –
What is it do you think about popular culture that is still captivated by witches?

AF I think over the centuries the story of the Pendle witches specifically has become akin to that of tittle tattle and Chinese whispers. The only documents written that come from the time are taken from the notes of someone who had a government agenda against them. They were hung, drawn and quartered before they stepped in the dock. It was important to me to re-address the balance, right some wrongs. History is both an ass and a teacher. It’s just that some people never learn.
I don’t really think people who for instance dress up like witches at Halloween really know what they are doing. They uglify themselves, stick on the pointy nose and some warts. I don’t think they are doing it in memory of these poor women that were raped and tortured, hung and left to rot. They are just doing it for the lark. It’s something that needs to be thought about before painting your face green and going wooo, aren’t I scary.

NC: The demonisation and scape-goating of women in particular as witches if they don’t conform still seems prevalent today (oddly, someone just told me that a woman was imprisoned under witchcraft laws as recently as 1947!). What forms do you think that takes, and how much does 1612 Underture address that?

MP: Women are still victimised for being different, for not conforming. We like to bandy the word ‘mad’ about when describing a woman who may be being out spoken or passionate. If a woman has a strong sense of her sexuality she’s still labelled a slag or some such. I feel we still have to battle to be heard, to be taken seriously. If a woman has an opinion she’s described as feisty! This infuriates me. If a woman is being strong-willed, outspoken, brave, emotional and fearless, then she is being a woman, nothing more nothing less.

NC: Listening to the album and watching a few clips from the show, it seems to be making some serious political points about those who are witch-hunted today, for being poor or different. While no-one’s being killed, just how bad is it today, do you think?

MP: No ones being killed? There are woman in this country who are being murdered in honour killings, female babies being murdered because they are not male. The biggest witchhunt at the moment is the Tory parties demonisation of the working class. Whipping middle England up into a frenzy with the myth of hoards of scroungers bleeding the tax payer dry, of immigrants coming over to take their jobs and homes. Bedroom tax, the gagging law. The list goes on and on.”

AF: Let’s not forget the small fact that more people are committing suicide than ever. I hope you’re proud of yourself, Mr Cameron?

NC: How much do you think doing 1612 Underture has affected you as an actress in terms of what you’ve done since?

MP: The collaboration came at a time when I was just beginning to write my first commission for Radio 4, so it’s really given me strength to have the confidence to try different artistic avenues. That I didn’t always have to be just an actress.

NC: After doing 1612 Underture, are there any plans to work with the Eccentronic Research Council again? Or is there any further to desire to makes records or perform live?

MP: We have recorded a new album, so I think I’ll always have a lifeline to the ERC. If things get really bad I could always roadie for them.

AF: You don’t show enough bum-crack to be a roadie. And yes, we do have a few records cooking away. In fact we have just released a single this week in honour of Delia Derbyshire’s ground-breaking radio experiment, ‘the dreams’, which she recorded fifty years ago. Ours is called Maxine’s Dream. Look it up.
The first of two new ERC albums will hopefully be out by the end of the year. We’ve not thought about doing any live shows, but if the people want it and the venue is an unusual setting then maybe we can be tempted. There really is nothing typical about this bunch of freakoids. I certainly never imagined we’d end up playing mad synths inside the National Galleries of Scotland!

NC: And finally, just out of interest, really, what is it you’re working on just now?

MP: At this moment I’m about to start work with film-maker Carol Morley on her next feature film project. My radio play about Anne Scargill and her occupation of Parkside Colliery in Lancashire in 1993 is on Radio 4 at 2.15 on November 4th, and I’ve a theatre commission to get on with for next year.

The Eccentronic Research Council featuring Maxine Peake will perform 1612 Underture as part of Halloween: By Night, which also features a performance by Blake Morrison, at the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, October 31st, 7.15-10pm. 1612 Underture and Maxine’s Dream are available now. Witches and Wicked Bodies runs at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, until November 3rd.

An edited version of this article appeared in The Herald, October 31st 2013

Source: Neil Cooper via

Actress Maxine Peake turns to goth rock music

She is best known for starring in Silk and The Village but Maxine Peake has another, darker, string to her bow. Away from the cameras, she has been recording songs about the Pendle witch trials with The Eccentronic Research Council. The Sheffield collective, led by musicians Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer, asked the actress to narrate their concept album 1612 Underture last year. “I never expected I would perform it”, Peake tells me.

Now, having appeared with the band at the album launch and Festival No. 6, she is preparing to perform the album in full at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh on Halloween, among the paintings of the current show, Witches & Wicked Bodies.

For previous performances Peake has got into the spirit, donning a gothic dress, bird’s nest hair and blood-red lips to deliver spooky Lancashire vocals over the band’s pyschedelic synths. “It’s very strange. With acting, you’re reacting to other people around you and trying not to be too conscious of the audience. With this, I really have to perform. But it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek”, she says. “I’m not a singer. I tinkle on the keyboard a bit. And I do play the theremin.” Where did you learn that? “I didn’t. I just attack it with a bit of gusto.”

This will be, says Peake, the last time she appears with The ERC on stage. “I think once we’ve done Edinburgh, it’s time to draw it to a close. It is a very specific piece.”

Further information and tickets for the event see the National Galleries Scotland website.

The ERC ft Maxine Peake release a vinyl only single in honour of Delia Derbyshire on 20 October on the Desolate Spools label with an album to follow in December.1612 Underture is available now on Finderskeepers records.


Interview: Maxine Peake on Ireland, Run & Jump and acting

“FILM locations in Ireland just take your breath away. I thought we had stunning scenery in the north of England but the southwest of Ireland was something else. I absolutely adored working there, it was such a wonderful time.”

Maxine Peake is in fine form as we chat.

The highly-acclaimed English actress is very much a woman in demand but recently made time after filming the BBC drama, Silk to talk about her experiences in Ireland working on her powerful new offering Run And Jump.

The film tells the story of an Irish family whose father (played by Edward MacLiam) has suffered a brain injury after a stroke.

His wife Venetia (Peake) is struggling to keep the family afloat when an American doctor (played by Will Forte) comes to observe his recovery. It had its Irish premiere at last month’s Galway Film Fleadh where it took the Best Film Award.

It was filmed in Co. Kerry and had the Oscar-nominated Steph Green as director. Peake says she was won over by the prospect of working in Ireland and admits to having been “blown away” by the script.

“The protagonist was a woman keeping the family together,” she said. “It was unsentimental and it felt real. I could identify with Venetia and the film had a real joy to it.

“On paper I guess it could have been depressing in other people’s hands, but what Steph Green did with it brought the joy out. Steph was really hands-on and it was a privilege to work with someone so passionate about a project. She had confidence in it from start to finish and that rubbed off on everyone.”

There can be no mistaking Peake’s northern English tones, so just how did she master the Irish accent for the role?

She continued: “I was worried about getting crucified over my accent, but we talked it through beforehand. We had a backstory for Venetia that she was born in Ireland and had moved to Manchester at a young age. Then when she met her husband she moved back home.

“So she slipped slightly into this Irish accent. The hybrid Irish accent fascinated me. It’s so contagious and beautiful that you can’t help but pick it up. You get the lilt and the tune, it’s infectious.

“Venetia was a bit of a loner, but came to Ireland and felt she really was back at home. I’m nervous about what Irish people will think when they hear my accent!”

Peake’s onscreen husband was played by MacLiam, who she describes as “fantastic to be around”.

She added: “Edward was focused and dedicated, he was just lovely to work with. He took the film seriously, but not himself. The role he was playing meant that he had a very difficult task, but he got his head down and did it with no fuss. I was full of admiration for him.”

Peake says that the more time she spent around Irish people working on the film the more she realised that the Irish are “natural actors”.

She said: “There’s something about the Irish character that lends itself to acting, possibly more than anything else. It’s the history of storytelling, the language, it’s so rich. And there’s a whole lot of young talent coming through.

“Daniel Day-Lewis is just the tip of the iceberg. There is some amazing Irish talent coming through. The Irish have a definite gift. I often think anyone from Ireland could be an actor, it’s like a second nature.”

Her work on Run And Jump was her first proper experience of spending any length of time in Ireland and she is determined to get back soon.

“It was brilliant. To my shame, I had only ever been to Ireland once before for a friend’s wedding and that was my whole experience of Ireland. I absolutely loved it.

“I found than the Irish can talk even more than (English) Northerners! It was a real experience and I can see why people completely fall in love with the place. It’s magical and it’s mystical.”

Peake started her career with a minor role in Victoria Wood’s Dinner Ladies and then moved into more serious characters with Shameless before recent TV drama successes like Silk and the World War 1 period drama, The Village.

She didn’t get to work with Pauline McLynn in Shameless because she had left by the time McLynn arrived, something she regrets.

“Pauline is a fantastic actress and she was brilliant in Shameless. She has done some amazing things and of course ‘Mrs Doyle’ is one of the best characters in comedy ever!”

Peake was once described in an interview as “low maintenance” and it’s obvious this is a description she is proud of.

“Oh don’t get me wrong… I can stomp my feet when I need to! But I don’t know where this ‘dreaming actor’ type comes from. I was brought up to not make a fuss, not to show off and just to get on with it.

“But I think some actors can make a fuss. Acting is a fantastic job and it is essential. We need entertainment. It’s just about getting the job done, get in and get on with it. You are one cog in a big machine. I like the team aspect of it.”

So what career advice would she give any young person hoping to start out in the world of film and television?

“Ha! Maybe look at somebody else’s career and not mine! All I can say is that if you love it enough it will happen. Stick in there, by the skin of your teeth. It’s a game and it’s about staying power. It’s about being able to take it on the chin.

“It’s a business and yes there is an element of self-promotion to it, it is called showbusiness after all. But to youngsters I would say ‘hang on in there’. Take the creative criticism and throw everything else away.”