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Maxine Peake: ‘Women need creative control over their own stories’

Maxine Peake as Nico in The Nico Project
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Actor Maxine Peake has argued that women need to be allowed to tell their own stories in theatre, as she announced an all-female creative team for her latest project.

Peake was speaking at the launch of Manchester International Festival 2019, for which she is creating The Nico Project with director Sarah Frankcom. The production will pay tribute to the late German singer Christa Päffgen, known by her stage name Nico, who was known for her work with the Velvet Underground in the 1960s before embarking on a solo career and relocating to Manchester in the 1980s.

Maxine Peake, Ivo Van Hove and Lolita Chakrabarti to feature in Manchester International Festival 2019 programme

Peake told The Stage: “I think we should all be allowed to tell our own stories. It just felt so important with this story.

“Nico is part of Manchester’s musical history, its mythology in the 1970s, 1980s and going into the 1990s, with the different shifts [of each time period]. She gets engulfed into that male world, so it’s about pulling her out as a female.”

Launching the new project, Peake said her original idea had been to adapt a book about Nico by James Young.

She said: “Sarah [Frankcom], in her genius, said we need to do something more than this, there’s something about this story that still belongs to the men in Manchester, and what we wanted to do was wrestle back a little bit of that Manchester mythology within the music scene and put women at the forefront.”

Peake added that as a result, the project would have an all-female creative team.

She also called for openness towards gender-swapping roles in theatre, in order to move towards equality of opportunities for men and women.

“It’s telling women’s stories, but it’s also giving women the freedom to play any part they want to play,” Peake said.

“I used to struggle at drama school when they said: ‘Do a Shakespearean speech’. I used to think: ‘I don’t really identify with any of these women, but I wouldn’t mind a crack at Richard II or Richard III.'”

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