Coming to a cinema near you: Maxine Peake’s Hamlet

Susie Stubbs

Didn’t get to see Maxine Peake’s version of Hamlet in the flesh? Fear not – it’ll soon be screened in cinemas across the country.

It’s safe to say that Sarah Frankcom and Maxine Peake’s version of Hamlet caused something of a stir. Peake’s by turns ferociously angry and heartbreakingly vulnerable performance pulled in the plaudits, while the staging – which included a grave scene where freshly dug soil was represented by a curious jumble of old clothes – met with a more mixed response. “It’s not the performance you expect,” said The Times critic, Dominic Maxwell. “It is, however, a stunningly good one… Peake and co. make this 400-year-old revenge tragedy come alive in a way you’ve never seen before.” The Guardian’s Michael Billington, meanwhile, declared Peake’s version of Hamlet to be “caustic, watchful, spry and filled with a moral disgust at the corruption she sees around her.”

But whether you consider Hamlet to have been a critical success or not, it was an unarguable hit. It was the Royal Exchange’s fastest-selling show in over ten years. Over 35,000 people sat in the theatre-in-the-round to experience it, and now the Exchange has announced that a film version of it has just wrapped up – meaning that Hamlet will be shown in around 200 cinemas from March next year.

It makes sense in a way that it wouldn’t even a few years back

A film version of Hamlet makes sense in a way that it perhaps wouldn’t even just a few years back. The team behind its production includes Margaret Williams, who has form when it comes to turning drama on stage into drama on film (such as a celluloid version of Britten’s opera, Peter Grimes, staged on the beach at Aldeburgh). It also tags on to the growing popularity of live theatre screened in cinemas – witness the runaway success of National Theatre Live, which sees its London productions show in cinemas across the country. Pencil Peake into your diary for April 2015, when the film comes to HOME in Manchester – if you didn’t get the chance to see her at the Exchange, this film version looks set to be the next best thing.

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