Peake and Rampling set to light up Manchester

This year’s Manchester International Festival line-up will continue the city’s cultural renaissance

Maxine Peake in a publicity image for The Skriker
Maxine Peake in a publicity image for The Skriker
Two of the country's most charismatic actors join the theatre line-up at this year's Manchester International Festival, announced on Thursday. Charlotte Rampling and Maxine Peake will both appear at the artist-led festival of new commissions and collaborations, which runs from 2 to 19 July.

The always enigmatic Rampling stars in Neck of the Woods, an intriguing collaboration with Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon, celebrated pianist Hélène Grimaud and playwright Veronica Gonzalez-Peña, which imagines and retells the story of the (big bad) wolf, that much-maligned character of children's stories – and nightmares.

Fittingly, this combination of visual art, music and theatre is a co-commission with HOME, Manchester's new multi-arts venue, which opens its doors in May.

Maxine Peake, most recently seen in the city as Hamlet at the Royal Exchange, returns to the St Ann's Square venue in Caryl Churchill's The Skriker, directed by the Exchange's Sarah Frankcom. Churchill's plays are regularly revived – indeed Light Shining In Buckinghamshire is part of Rufus Norris's inaugural season at the National – so it's interesting to note that this piece hasn't been staged since its debut at the Cottesloe in 1994. However, if anyone can bring a challenging text to vivid life, Peake can.

'I'm anticipating spectacular results'

Damon Albarn, Rufus Norris and Moira Buffini's new musical sees the fantastic imagery of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland meet the modern world of gaming in the guise of 12-year-old Aly. Surrounded by some of the most recognisable characters from the book, Aly attempts to escape her bullies, her parents and herself. Looking at the creative team lined up for the show, I'm anticipating spectacular results.

For the littluns, MIF15 gives us The Tale of Mr Tumble, which sees the soft-centred Justin Fletcher transport tiny imaginations into the colourful world of one of TV's most loveable CBeebies characters. More than 400 Manchester children from special needs and mainstream primaries will join Mr Tumble on stage over the course of the run.

Over at Festival (Albert) Square, innovative comedy venue The Invisible Dot relocates from King's Cross bringing with it a programme that includes The Crocodile, a new play based on Dostoevsky's short story of the same name.

Lovers of the dance should head for Tree of Codes at the Opera House. Royal Ballet choreographer Wayne McGregor's collaboration with visual artist Olafur Eliasson and Mercury-prize winning Jamie xx will create a contemporary ballet based on Jonathan Safran Foer's book of the same name. Soloists from the Paris Royal Ballet and McGregor's eponymous company perform in a piece that's been two years in the making.

And dance with more of a street flavour comes in the shape of Brooklyn-based 'Flex' pioneer Reggie ‘Roc’ Gray and a specially assembled team of locally-sourced Flex dancers at the Old Granada Studios – former home of Corrie.

With all this and more (including Bjork) taking place over 18 days in July, it looks like the cultural renaissance of Manchester is set to continue well into 2015.

For more info on the Manchester International Festival, visit