Peake in February 2015
Maxine Peake (born 14 July 1974) is an English actress. She is best known for her roles as Twinkle in Dinnerladies and Veronica Ball in Shameless, barrister Martha Costello in the BBC legal drama Silk, and Grace Middleton in the BBC drama series The Village, as well as starring in the Black Mirror episode Metalhead. She has also played the title role in Hamlet.
Peake was born in Westhoughton, Bolton on 14 July 1974, the second of two daughters born to Glenys (née Hall) and Brian Peake. Her father was a lorry driver before working in the electrical industry, and her mother was a part-time careworker. Her older sister, Lisa, who was born in 1965, is a police officer. Peake's parents separated when she was nine and she lived with her mother until the age of 15. When her mother moved in with a new boyfriend several miles away, Peake went to live with her grandfather so she could continue her GCSE studies at Westhoughton High School, before going on to take her A-Levels at Canon Slade School in Bradshaw. Her grandfather encouraged her to develop her creativity and start acting.
Peake joined the Octagon Youth Theatre in Bolton at age 13, before a period at the youth theatre of the Royal Exchange in Manchester. She later did a two-year performing arts course at the Salford College of Technology. During this time she appeared in productions with two leading amateur theatre companies in Bolton: The Marco Players and The Phoenix Theatre Company. Peake was a member of the Communist Party of Britain Salford branch in her youth. In her teens, Peake played for Wigan Ladies rugby league team.
Peake's early attempts to enter the acting profession were unsuccessful. She was rejected by every theatre education company in North West England, and tried unsuccessfully for three years to get into Manchester Polytechnic Theatre School and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. However, at 21, she obtained a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Her attempts to find sponsorship for her study at RADA were the subject of a 1996 documentary by The South Bank Show. Eventually, after being put forward by RADA, she was awarded the Patricia Rothermere Scholarship.
Peake has appeared in many television and stage productions including Victoria Wood's Dinnerladies, Channel 4's Shameless, in the lead role of barrister Martha Costello in the BBC's legal drama Silk and alongside John Simm in the BBC drama The Village, depicting life in a Derbyshire village during the First World War. Following career advice from Victoria Wood, between the two series of dinnerladies, Peake lost so much weight that an explanation had to be written into the script for her character, Twinkle.
Peake portrayed Moors murderer Myra Hindley in See No Evil: The Moors Murders, which was broadcast in May 2006. In January 2009, Peake appeared in her first major feature film role, as Angela, in the film Clubbed.
In 2012, Peake played the title role in Miss Julie at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, and previously played the part of Kristin in a 2000 production. She played Doll Tearsheet in the BBC2 adaptations of Henry IV, Parts I and II.
Peake wrote, directed and starred in the play Beryl: A Love Story On Two Wheels about the life of the Leeds-born cyclist Beryl Burton, which was broadcast on BBC Radio Four in November 2012. In 2014, Peake adapted her play for the stage. Titled simply Beryl, it was commissioned by the West Yorkshire Playhouse where it ran in June and July 2014 to coincide with the start of the Tour de France in Leeds. The play returned in June and July 2015 and toured across England in Autumn 2015. Peake wrote a later play called Queens of the Coal Age again for Radio 4 that told the story of Annie Scargill and three other women who tried to occupy a coal mine during the 1980s Miners' Strike.
Peake provided the vocals for the Eccentronic Research Council's 2012 concept album 1612 Underture about the Pendle Witch Trials and for their 2015 album Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine…I'm Your Biggest Fan. Peake also features as a crazed stalker in the music video for "Sweet Saturn Mine" by Moonlandingz; a collaborative effort by Eccentronic Research Council and Fat White Family in 2015.
In September 2013, Peake was appointed an Associate Artist of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Her association with the theatre began in childhood and she was a member of the youth theatre. Major productions in which she has performed include The Children's Hour in 2008, for which she won a MEN Award, and Miss Julie in 2012 for which she won a Manchester Theatre Award. All of her performances at the Royal Exchange have been directed by Sarah Frankcom with whom she also collaborated on The Masque of Anarchy in 2012 for the Manchester International Festival. Building on this work, in September 2014 Frankcom went on to direct her as the title character in a radical re-imagining of Hamlet. The demand for tickets was so great that the production was extended for a week, having been "the theatre's fastest-selling show in a decade". The Guardian said of her performance: "Peake’s delicate ferocity, her particular mixture of concentration and lightness, ensure that you want to follow her whenever she appears". A year later she appeared in Frankcom's production of The Skriker, as "Caryl Churchill's shape-shifting, doom-wreaking fairy". The Guardian's Lyn Gardner listed the production in her top ten British plays of the year. In 2016, Peake resumed her partnership with Royal Exchange Artistic Director, Sarah Frankcom, to star as Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. Peake's performance in the role garnered critical acclaim with The Guardian describing her performance as "exquisite" and "breathtaking".
Peake starred as the eponymous protagonist in the 2018 film Funny Cow alongside a cast including Paddy Considine and Stephen Graham. Tony Pitts wrote and starred in the film, which received positive reviews, in particular for Peake's "magnificent" performance.
Peake starred in, and won critical acclaim for, the lead role of Winnie in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days at the Royal Exchange Theatre in May 2018. The Guardian said she gave a "brilliant central performance, there’s barely a breath between optimism and despair". Following Happy Days, the theatre presented Queens of the Coal Age, a play written by Peake. Adapted from her earlier radio drama, Queens of the Coal Age looks at the early 1990s pit closure protests by miners' wives in northern England. The play received mixed reviews.
In 2009, Peake left London after living there for 13 years. The move freed her of the financial constraints of trying to buy a house in the area. She said that living in Salford with her art director partner Pawlo Wintoniuk gave her the freedom to choose more risky roles and lower-paying jobs in theatre. "For the last few years I have been lucky enough to choose what I want to do. Living in Salford gives me the confidence to do that because I don't have a massive mortgage."
Peake brings her views into much of her work. She is a feminist and socialist. She was active in communist organisations during her youth and a member of the Communist Party of Britain. In January 2014, Peake won the first Bolton Socialist Club Outstanding Contribution to Socialism Award, for using her work to oppose the government's "crippling austerity measures".
Support for Jeremy Corbyn
In July 2015, Peake endorsed Jeremy Corbyn's campaign in the Labour Party leadership election. She wrote on her website: "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."
In April 2017, Peake endorsed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. She said: "I am a Corbyn supporter. My mind boggles why people treat him like the anti-Christ, but it goes to show people are a lot more right-wing than they like to believe."
In November 2019, along with other public figures, Peake signed a letter supporting Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world" and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election.
Interview with The Independent in June 2020
In June 2020, she took part in an interview with The Independent, in which she stated that the practice of police officers in the United States kneeling on someone's neck, one example of which led to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, was "learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services". The Independent amended the original article to add a note that "the allegation that US police were taught tactics of 'neck kneeling' by Israeli secret services is unfounded". Peake later stated that she was "inaccurate in [her] assumption of American police training and its sources".
Peake's statement was seen by Labour leader Keir Starmer, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Labour Movement as an "antisemitic conspiracy theory". Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey retweeted the article, leading to her sacking from the Shadow Cabinet by Keir Starmer. John McDonnell, shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, said that "criticism of practices of [the] Israeli state is not antisemitic" and that Peake's statement was not antisemitic.
|2002||All or Nothing||Party Girl|
|Hamilton Mattress||Lulu||Short; voice role|
|2005||Be Mine||Tina's Mum||Short|
|2006||The Madness of the Dance||The Professor||Short|
|2007||I Am Bob||Marilyn Monroe||Short|
|Would Like to Meet||Heather||Short|
|2011||Room at the Top||Alice Aisgill|
|Best Laid Plans||Isabel|
|2012||Private Peaceful||Hazel Peaceful|
|2013||Run & Jump||Vanetia Casey|
|The Theory of Everything||Elaine Mason|
|2017||Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle||Narrator||Documentary|
|Funny Cow||Funny Cow|
|2018||Fanny Lye Deliver'd||Fanny Lye|
|1996||Hetty Wainthropp Investigates||Photocopy Assistant||Episode: "Fingers"|
|1998||Picking Up the Pieces||Lucy||Episode: "Episode No. 1.7"|
|1999||Sunburn||Sue||Episode: "Episode No. 1.5"|
|Coronation Street||Belinda Peach||Episode: "Episode No. 1.46352"|
|Jonathan Creek||Marion Cretiss||Episode: "The Curious Tale of Mr. Spearfish"|
|2000||Clocking Off||Marie Leach||Episode: "The Leaches' Story"|
|2001||The Way We Live Now||Ruby Ruggles||4 episodes|
|Linda Green||Receptionist||Episode: "Fitness Freak"|
|2002||Holby City||Tanya Wilton||Episode: "Pawns in the Game: Part 1"|
|Dalziel and Pascoe||Dr. Allison Laurie||Episode: "Mens Sana"|
|2003||At Home with the Braithwaites||Trixie Fletcher||Episode: "Episode No. 4.3"|
|Early Doors||Janice||4 episodes|
|2004||Christmas Lights||Pauline||TV movie|
|2004–2007||Shameless||Veronica Ball||Series regular (series 1–3), guest (series 4); 27 episodes|
|Messiah: The Harrowing||DS Vickie Clarke|
|2006||See No Evil: The Moors Murders||Myra Hindley||TV movie|
|2007||Confessions of a Diary Secretary||Tracey Temple||TV movie|
|2008||Bike Squad||WPC Kate McFay||TV movie|
|Fairy Tales||Cindy Mellor||Episode: "Cinderella"|
|Hancock and Joan||Joan Le Mesurier||TV movie|
|Placebo||Dr. Sian Nuttall||TV movie|
|The Devil's Whore||Elizabeth Liliburne||4 episodes|
|Little Dorrit||Miss Wade||7 episodes|
|2009||Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980||Helen Marshall||TV movie|
|Agatha Christie's Marple – They Do It with Mirrors||Jolly Bellever||TV movie|
|Criminal Justice||Juliet Miller||5 episodes|
|2010||The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister||Anne Lister||TV movie|
|2011–2014||Silk||Martha Costello||18 episodes|
|2012||Henry IV, Parts I and II||Doll Tearsheet||TV dramas, part of the series The Hollow Crown|
|2013–2014||The Village||Grace Middleton||12 episodes|
|2016||Comic Strip – Red Top||Rebekah Brooks||TV movie|
|A Midsummer Night's Dream||Titania||TV movie|
|2017||Three Girls||Sara Rowbotham||3 episodes|
|Black Mirror||Bella||Episode: "Metalhead"|
|2018||The Bisexual||Sadie||TV series|
|2019||Anne||Anne Williams||TV mini-series|
|2020||Inside No 9||Nadia||Episode: "Thinking Out Loud"|
|Talking Heads||Miss Fozzard||Episode: "Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet"|
|1998||Early One Morning||Lizzie|||
|The John Ford Investigation||Various|
|The Importance of Being Earnest||Gwendoline|
|The Cherry Orchard||Dunyasha|||
|2001||The Relapse||Miss Hoyden|||
|Luther||Katherine Von Bora|||
|2002||Mother Theresa Is Dead||Jane|||
|2003||Serjeant Musgrave's Dance||Annie|||
|Robin Hood||Maid Marion|
|The Permanent Way||Various||Not in the final cast|||
|2005||Rutherford and Son||Janet|||
|2006||On the Third Day||Claire|||
|2007||Leaves of Glass||Debbie|||
|2008||The Children's Hour||Karen Wright|||
|The Deep Blue Sea||Hester Collyer|||
|2012||Miss Julie||Miss Julie|||
|2013||The Masque of Anarchy||Performer|||
|2015||How to Hold Your Breath||Dana|||
|The Skriker||The Skriker|||
|2016||A Streetcar Named Desire||Blanche DuBois|||
|2019||Avalanche: A Love Story||Julia|
|The Nico Project||Nico|
|2020||The Welkin||Lizzie Luke|
|The Great Mountain Sheep Gather||Narrator|
- Guilty Until Proved Innocent (2009), Dina
- Geoffrey Chaucer – Troilus and Criseyde (2009), Criseyde (dramatised by Lavinia Greenlaw)
- This Repulsive Woman (2010), Deborah Hurst
- Craven (Series 1: 2009, Series 2, 3 & 4: 2012, Series 5: 2013, Series 6: 2014), Detective Sue Craven
- Beryl: A Love Story on Two Wheels (2012), writer and performer (Beryl Burton)
- Queens of the Coal Age (2013) writer and performer (Anne Scargill)
- My Dad Keith (2014), writer and performer (Steph)
- Betsie Coleman (2015), performer (Betsie Coleman)
- Briar Road (2015), narrator (writer Jonathan Buckley)
- Not in Our Name CD (2015), narrator (writer Heathcote Williams)
- Only Mountains, BBC Radio Drama on 3 (writer) 8 March 2020
Only Artists (2018), meets the musician and performance artist Cosey Fanni Tutti.
Awards and nominations
|2006||See No Evil: The Moors Murders||Royal Television Society – North||Best Actress||Won|
|2009||Hancock & Joan||BAFTA TV Award||Nominated|
|2010||The Street||Broadcasting Press Guild Award||Won|
|Criminal Justice||Broadcasting Press Guild Award||Won|
|Crime Thriller Awards||Nominated|
|2013||Silk||Broadcasting Press Guild Award||Nominated|
|Crime Thriller Awards||Nominated|
|Room at the Top||Broadcasting Press Guild Award||Nominated|
|2014||Keeping Rosy||Fantasporto Awards||Won|
|The Village||BAFTA TV Award||Nominated|
|Broadcasting Press Guild Awards||Nominated|
|2018||Three Girls||Broadcasting Press Guild Awards||Nominated|
|UK Theatre Award||Outstanding contribution to British Theatre||Won|
|Funny Cow||British Independent Film Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
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When I was much younger I used to be a member of the Communist Party although nowadays I don't really have a political affiliation to any party.
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