Maxine Peake: Performance, Protest And Peterloo (BBC2) – TV Review

Maxine Peake: Performance, Protest and Peterloo

Peake Performance  – ‘Review of The Culture Show – Maxine Peake: Performance, Protest And Peterloo’ (BBC2)

Maxine Peake is one of the more intelligent actors around – she thinks and speaks a lot about life and politics and unlike some of her fellow thesps, she never has you face-palming or instantly dismissing her opinion. Miranda Sawyer presented this Culture Show on Peake’s reading of Shelley’s revolutionary poem, ‘The Masque of Anarchy. This was part of the Manchester International Festival. The reading had added power as it was being done right beside where the Peterloo Massacre took place – a police charge that killed up to 18 people attending what would now be called a pro-democracy protest. Shelley’s poem was a reaction to that massacre. It was revolutionary call for non-violent resistance that has been heard through the ages, right down to the Occupy Movement and most of the Anarchist thinking of today. The final, stirring, line still resonates ‘We are many, they are few’. Radicalism and regionalism were the focus of Sawyer’s attention in this crowded but fascinating half hour.

Peake herself is an unashamed radical, a former Communist, RADA Graduate – which she really had to fight for to get – and a woman aware of how art can change lives and how words can move people to action. Sawyer and Peake bonded like old friends (maybe they are?) and the former segued into a specific piece about Peake  & Shelley into musings on the Northern/Manchester culture in general. It might be a stretch to compare the Madchester Music scene as part of a radical political tradition but the case was made nevertheless. A cameo by John Cooper Clarke took us down yet another path – and an interview with Billy Bragg asked him why this generation, i.e. all of us alive, feel so powerless. Having seen Bragg perform at Occupy Dame Street, this reviewer can testify that he [Bragg], for one, will never give up. Maxine Peake is in that radical tradition. A fine programme by Sawyer and the BBC.

Categories: TV

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