Maxine Peake to play Blanche DuBois in Royal Exchange Theatre’s opening RET40 show

Amazing news has just been announced!

Associate Artist Maxine Peake opens the Royal Exchange’s 40th anniversary season with her portrayal of iconic female protagonist Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ 1947 Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece A STREET CAR NAMED DESIRE.

This production sees Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom and long-term collaborator Peake join forces once again to tackle one of modern dramas greatest plays. The production opens at the Royal Exchange on the 8 September and runs until 15 October.

Peake said of taking on the role…
Blanche DuBois is a monumental woman, complex, multi-layered and beautifully painted by Williams in this staggering play. Finding out who she is and developing her in a rehearsal room with a brilliant and generous director like Sarah is a thrilling journey to go on. I can’t wait to start.

This production reunites the incredible creative partnership behind acclaimed productions THE SKRIKER, HAMLET (Royal Exchange) and THE MASQUE OF ANARCHY (MIF 2013).

Sarah Frankcom commented…
This is an earthquake of a play that lays bare the extremes and contradictions of being human: desire and love, truth and delusion, hope and despair. I’m thrilled that this production will build on my creative collaboration with Maxine Peake. She’s a rare and fearless actor. I am positive we will create something electrifying for our intimate and unique space.


Maxine Peake ‘ignored’ while selling Big Issue

Actor Maxine Peake said she was “surprised how people just ignore you” while taking a real-life role as a Big Issue seller in Manchester.

The stage and TV star joined regular seller Monica outside the Royal Exchange Theatre to sell the magazine as part of Vendor Week, an international event which will see people around the world take a turn at street-selling for an hour.

Peake, who appeared in Silk and The Village, said she found it hard to deal with the number of people who walk past without speaking, adding that she did not know how Monica coped with it “without losing [her] temper”.

The Manchester event will also see poet Lemn Sissay, DJ Clint Boon and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd sell the magazine.

Watch the video here!

Maxine Peake supporting #VendorWeek

Now the hustle and bustle of the festive period has settled down and the January sales are coming to an end our towns and cities become quiet and, for our vendors, can be lonely places. Although the sales and crowds are gone, they are still working hard to earn an income – selling Big Issue North magazine.

Each year, well-known people from around the world take part in #VendorWeek – taking an hour out of their day to stand alongside our vendors and try their hand at selling Big Issue North. Not only do they help drive sales for our vendors and get a really valuable experience, they also help raise funds for the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), which supports more than 100 street papers worldwide.

This #VendorWeek, February 1st – 7th 2016, we have the support of some wonderful guest sellers. Here’s the full list:

Greater Manchester:
Monday, 1.30pm: Matthew Gardiner, CEO of Trafford Housing Trust, Royal Exchange Theatre (St. Ann’s Square)
Thursday, 9.30am: Ian Munro, CEO of New Charter Group, Royal Exchange Theatre (St. Ann’s Square)
Thursday, 11am: Maxine Peake, actress, Royal Exchange Theatre (St. Ann’s Square)
Thursday, noon: Dave Power, CEO of One Manchester, Royal Exchange Theatre (St. Ann’s Square)
Thursday, 1.30: Prose, band, Royal Exchange Theatre (St. Ann’s Square)
Thursday, 3pm: Clint Boon, (Radio) DJ, musician (The Inspiral Carpets), Royal Exchange Theatre (St. Ann’s Square)

Friday, 10am: Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester Police Police and Crime Commissioner, Royal Exchange Theatre (St. Ann’s Square)
Friday, noon: Lemn Sissay MBE, author/broadcaster/Chancellor of University of Manchester, Royal Exchange Theatre (St. Ann’s Square)
Friday, 4pm: Kate Green MP, Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston, Stretford Shopping Mall

Monday, 5.30pm: Bishop of Liverpool The Rt Revd Paul Bayes – Liverpool ONE

Thursday, 9.30am: Gary Millar, Councillor for Old Swan, Liverpool, former Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Central Station (Bold Street entrance)
Thursday, 11am: Keith Mullin, lead guitarist in The Farm/lecturer at LIPA, Central Station (Bold Street entrance)
Thursday, 1pm: Ian Prowse, front man of Amsterdam, musician, Central Station (Bold Street entrance)

Friday, 10am: Bill Addy, CoE Priest, CEO of Liverpool BID Company – Marks & Spencer

Friday, 10am: Mik Artistik, poet, musician & artist, outside House of Fraser on Briggate

Tuesday, 1pm: Jon McClure, front man of Reverend and the Makers, outside Town Hall

Last year’s Big Sell raised funds for INSP and generated fantastic media coverage for Big Issue North – 29 stories in the press; two BBC radio broadcasts and four broadcasts on TV, including ITV Calendar and Granada. It was also popular on social media, with our messages on Twitter and Facebook reaching more than a million people last year!

You can help raise funds for INSP by donating here:!

Here’s what our Big Sell participants are asked to do:

• Spare an hour of their time to join a vendor on their pitch and ‘sell’ Big Issue North in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester or Sheffield

• Promote that they’re involved with #VendorWeek

• Raise funds for INSP

• Give us a quote

The money earned while selling Big Issue North will go to vendors in the city where the magazine was sold. All other money raised through #VendorWeek goes to the International Network of Street Papers which supports street papers around the world to start up, grow and develop so that they can provide homeless and unemployed people with a way to earn an income and improve their lives.

What last year’s guest sellers found:

Last year’s Big Sell saw 23 people spend an hour of their day selling Big Issue North across our region. Here are some impressions of their experiences:

“Most of the time when I’m doing my job, people look at me, they show an interest. This afternoon, it’s been fascinating watching people averting their eyes, trying not to notice what I’m doing … I have a little more appreciation of how demanding it really is.” Dr. David Walker, Bishop of Manchester

“It’s hard work to get people to buy the magazine. And there are far, far too many people in this rich country of ours who still don’t have a proper home to go to at night.” Kate Green MP

“Even in a hi-vis jacket I became invisible. People walk past me. They might have smiled sympathetically. One or two nodded at me. But only three people put their hands in their pocket. I admit I wasn’t very good at it. I think you’ve got to become hardened to being ignored … It’s been a fantastic learning experience for me. And it just shows you what Big Issue vendors go through every day.” Ian McMillan, poet & broadcaster

“It’s been bloody hard work. People ignore you. People blank you. Some people are really nice. Next time I walk past a Big Issue seller I’ll be buying one.” Ian Munro – Chief Executive of New Charter

“Selling the Big Issue – probably the hardest job I’ve ever done in my life to be honest … It reminds you of the driving force vendors must have to do this. It takes some neck. It’s alright for me but for them it’s their daily grind. This is their everyday on these streets. It’s also bloody cold.” Allan Beswick – BBC Radio Manchester

“It’s almost like you’re a ghost in the middle of the road … I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to do this every day of your life without knowing where you going to sleep tonight either. My heart really goes out to the people actually doing it ‘cause what they’re trying to do is work their way out of the predicament they find themselves in. And homelessness is something that as a society we should not accept.” Keith Mullin, LIPA/The Farm

“I’m taking part in the Big Sell [because] I thought it would be a really good idea to get involved and just experience what the vendors have to do day in and day out. And it’s a difficult sell!” Mark Burns-Willamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner

“Spare a thought for those who spend all day and in far more inclement weather than this in order to sell this excellent magazine. Everybody knows the Big Issue but not everybody buys the Big Issue. And that includes me. Please think of the homeless. Think of the Big Issue. Buy the Big Issue.” George Galloway, former MP

You can watch all last year’s participants’ full feedback in our Big Sell 2015 playlist here:


Event: Maxine Peake’s Hamlet and Women in the Creative Industries

Maxine Peake’s Hamlet and Women in the Creative Industries

The British Council celebrates the role of women in the creative industries and explores how Shakespeare’s work can influence them with a screening of Sarah Frankcom’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s iconic play, Hamlet. Starring Maxine Peake, this ultimate play is about loyalty, betrayal, love, murder and madness. A lively and thought-provoking panel discussion follows on the role of women in the creative industries. The panel encourages those present to critically explore gender roles and challenge the barriers that still exist. The British Council are asking for your help to stimulate some early discussion in return for a free ticket. Suggest a question for the panel or telling them why you think Hamlet is so relevant to the lives of women today. Please send email questions and comments to Amy Rogers. HOME, 9 March, time and tickets TBC.


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

Maxine Peake to voiceover Royal Exchange Theatre’s production ‘Into the Woods’

Alex Gaumond, Michael Peavoy and Gillian Bevan lead the cast of the Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of Into the Woods, which will feature a voiceover by Maxine Peake.

The Stephen Sondheim musical, which has a book by James Lapine, runs at the venue from December 4 to January 16.

It is directed by associate artistic director Matthew Xia, with design by Jenny Tiramani, lighting by Ciaran Cunningham, and choreography by Jason Pennycooke.

Gaumond, who recently appeared in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, London, will play the Baker, with Bevan as Witch and Peavoy as the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince.

Other cast members include Michael O’Connor, Isabelle Peters, Gemma Page and Amy Ellen Richardson.

The musical marks the first time Gaumond has appeared at the Manchester-based theatre.

He told The Stage: “It will be my first time at the Royal Exchange Theatre and I couldn’t be more excited to work at such an iconic venue. I am particularly excited to see how this great musical will play in the round and can’t wait to work with director Matthew Xia, his team and our superb cast to develop a new production of this much-loved show.”

Xia described the musical as a “truly sublime” show that explores the “relationship between parents and children; desire; greed and how a community reacts to catastrophe”.

“I’m interested in our contemporary connection to this enchanted woodland,” he said.

The show’s musical director is Sean Green.


Jeremy Corbyn leads Manchester protest

The Tories, basically, are coming to town in the first week of October, and Manchester is having none of it.

Scheduled to run from 4-7 October, The People’s Assembly is heading the “Take Back Manchester” protest against The Conservative Party conference in the city. Road-blocking protests, marches, rallies and overnight camps in the areas where the Tories plan to have their conference have been planned.

At last month’s People’s Assembly meeting in the Northern Quarter, anti-austerity activists roared and cheered as various speakers addressed a packed Central Methodist Hall about the plans. The agenda is simple yet firm – stop David Cameron from coming to Manchester. Having agreed to act now to end Tory austerity, TPA supporters vowed to make a loud protest against The Tories.

Notable figures in attendance will include Jeremy Corbyn MP, Owen Jones, Maxine Peake, Frankie Boyle, Charlotte Church, Sam Fairburn (National Secretary of the People’s Assembly) Colette Williams from Black Activists Rise Up Against Cuts (BARAC), actress Julie Hesmondhalgh and Lynn Collins from North West TUC, just to mention a few.

“With what’s happening recently with Jeremy Corbyn, I just think there is a real bright future for us all and I didn’t think I would be in this position after the general election when I spent days in bed like most of you”, Maxine Peake said.

Launched just over 2 years ago in the same hall, The People’s Assembly has grown from just 700 members to over a 250,000. After feeling the people’s frustrations with the government’s economy of austerity measures, the anti-cuts movement actively gather for action – to change things.

The People’s Assembly plans to make the 4th October the biggest protest nationwide so they are even inviting non-Mancunians as there will be halls set up with sleeping and living facilities for just £2 per night. This will be going on all week.