In Review

Hamlet – reviews of gender switching Shakespeare

Maxine Peake gives a star turn as the troubled prince in Manchester's 'fabulous, feminised' new Hamlet

Maxine Peake, Hamlet
What you need to know

A 'gender-switching' production of Shakespeare's Hamlet starring Maxine Peake is playing at the Royal Exchange, Manchester. Peake, best known for her TV roles in Silk, The Village and Shameless, takes on the title role.

In Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, the young prince of Denmark, mourns the death of his father and resents his mother for her swift remarriage to his uncle, the newly crowned king. Consumed by grief, anger and indecision, he contemplates a terrible revenge.

Sarah Frankcom directs the production which runs until 25 October.   

What the critics like

"What a piece of work is Manchester's fabulous, feminised production of Hamlet," says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. Maxine Peake's restrained star turn is unexpected and stunningly good, but this is also a genuine ensemble triumph.

We are not used to seeing a woman play Hamlet - the result is "a powerful and yet curiously domestic production", says Paul Vallely in The Independent. Peake brings direct emotional ferocity and commitment, playing down Hamlet's madness to create an intense family drama.

The gender switches in this Hamlet may unsettle, but the shift does not distort the play, says Susannah Clapp in The Observer. And Peake's "delicate ferocity, her particular mixture of concentration and lightness, ensures that you want to follow her whenever she appears".

What they don't like

Maxine Peake has star quality - there's something about this dame that makes her Dane a hot-ticket, but the problem lies in the surrounding production, says Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph. The supporting cast turn in some wildly varying performances and it isn't quite the triumph one had hoped for.

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