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Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester Royal Exchange

The ''Shameless'' star will play the Dane as part of a new position as an artistic associate of the Manchester venue

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Maxine Peake
© Dan Wooller

Maxine Peake will star in a "radical re-imagining" of Hamlet at the Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre next year.

Directed by the venue's artistic director Sarah Frankcom, the production will be the first of "a number of exciting creative collaborations" between Peake and the Royal Exchange, where she will become an artistic associate in autumn 2014.

"Sarah and I have looked for a project that would stretch and excite us and Hamlet just seemed the the next natural step to challenge us both in so many ways," Peake said.

She is not the first woman to play Shakespeare's biggest role. Among the most well known to have tackled the Dane include French star Sarah Bernhardt, who was the first to play the role on screen, and German actress Angela Winkler.

Peake added: "I am so excited how gender swapping can affect and throw up new ways of looking at this theatrical masterpiece; then to be asked to join the Exchange as an artistic associate was just the cherry on the cake."

Her appointment, which will see the actress star in a series of productions and work with community groups and young people, is described by the Royal Exchange as "the development of a longstanding relationship".

Known to millions for her work in TV series including Shameless and Dinnerladies, Peake has previously appeared at the Royal Exchange in productions including Rutherford and Son, The Children's Hour and Miss Julie. She recently collaborated with Frankom on The Masque of Anarchy as part of the Manchester International Festival.

"I am so honoured to be part of this building's future for a little while, especially in this climate of savage cuts when more than ever we need to support our wonderful regional theatres," Peake said.

"I feel no need to compete with London - more than ever local people need a voice and a creative outlet in these extreme times and I feel the Exchange has a huge role to play in that."

Sarah Frankcom added: "Maxine started her acting career in our youth theatre. Her performances have thrilled our audiences and the Royal Exchange is her local theatre. We are thrilled she is going to be working more closely with us. Hamlet is a massively exciting challenge for any actor and director. I am certain Maxine will be a compelling and extraordinary Hamlet for our time."