“I’m a Socialist first and foremost. Being a feminist means being active and constantly conscious about the wellbeing of your fellow sisters near and far.”
Society would be a better place if there were more people like Maxine Peake; steadfast and unforgiving in her political beliefs. Peake has gained recognition for her roles in ‘dinnerladies’, ‘Shameless’, ‘See No Evil: The Moors Murders’, and, more recently, playing a female Hamlet at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in 2015. Raised in the North of England under Thatcher’s government, she is an ardent supporter of the Unions, of Socialism, of the People; speaking at Corbyn rallies and dismissing Tory policies. Peake is more than an actress, she is an activist.
You played Myra Hindley in 'See No Evil: The Moors Murders', what did it feel like?
Feel like to play Myra? I find it very difficult to articulate a role and it’s process. I feel very uncomfortable when other actors start to dissect their characters and their acting methods, mainly because I think a lot of it is bullshit and they are just over intellectualising something that should be instinctive and private basically. I read a lot of interviews and you think, smart dissection of your character and motives, but where was all that in your performance?
It was an extraordinary experience but I think that came from the actors I was working with, Joanne Froggatt, Matthew McNulty and especially Sean Harris, whom I formed a strong bond with during the filming. To be honest, I used to feel a real pull about the day's filming to come. Which is not always the case. It was a very special job. You never forget the horrific deeds that Ian and Myra committed but you can’t take that on set with you. You have to be in the moment.
I've noticed that criticism and disgust for the Moors Murders seems to fall heavier upon Hindley for her role, why do you think this is?
She is a woman and people still today see women as Mothers, carers, nurturers. In a perverse way, it’s sexism.
Can you recall anything from gowing up in the North of England under the Thatcher government? Did this shape your political beliefs?
My whole childhood was affected and infected by Thatcher. I still have a strong loathing for the woman. Her legacy has destroyed parts of the North. Ripped the hearts out of communities. I had very political Grandparents, they were both active members of the Communist Party so they had a huge influence on me politically. I was 10 years old when the 1984/85’ Miners strike happened. That affected me hugely. My Grandad would take me with him when he went out to collect for the strike and I remember the hostility from the Police. I believe the Miners strike has been woefully under represented in Britain. This was a point in our history when we were on the brink of civil war. The police brutality. The Army being drafted in. The BBC editing footage in favour of the Police. The desperation of communities struggling to keep afloat struggling to heat and feed themselves. Thatcher’s cold hearted determination to destroy the unions at all costs. A couple of years ago I wrote a radio play called 'Queens Of The Coal Age'. It was based on Anne Scargill and 3 other extraordinary women who occupied Parkside pit in 1993. After hearing the plans to close the last remaining mines in this country, they decided to get down the mine and stage a sit-in. On very little provisions and in freezing conditions they stayed there 5 days and 4 nights. I wanted in my small way to redress the balance to give Anne, Dot, Elaine and Lesley who took part, a voice on the radio, in a mainstream medium.
I remember exactly where I was when she went. I was in a class at Salford Tech and we got the news. The sense of relief was overwhelming. I knew we still had a Tory government and things wouldn’t change dramatically but it felt she’d never go she’d been there what felt like, all my life. Then her Legacy from Blair onwards to the appalling situation we find ourselves in today.
What similarities/differences have you noticed between Thatcher's government and the Tory party we are governed by today?
The consistent and ruthless bullying of the working class. The Aspirational bollocks they keep talking about. Thatcher was dangerous and evil but this lot are taking it to a new level. At least she was more open about being a hateful cow.
Would you consider yourself a feminist, if so, what does this mean to you?
I’m a Socialist first and foremost. Being a feminist means being active and constantly conscious about the wellbeing of your fellow sisters near and far. It’s about getting off your arse and doing something. Informing and educating. Speaking out where and when you can for those who can’t.
Words by Luisa Le Voguer Couyet.
This interview originally appeared in Issue 2 of Hate zine, published in 2016.