To be or not to be a woman - is the question that really needs no answer in this penetrating and exciting production.
Maxine Peake is just the latest in a long line of actresses to submit themselves to the intense examination of performing one of Shakespeare’s greatest challenges. With her elfin haircut topping off an androgynous appearance, further emphasised in a shapeless suit, this is a gender-blind performance of great power and persuasion.
Gillian Bevan makes an especially frosty and business-like Pollonia. John Shrapnel is a tortured Claudius, Barbara Marten adds to her acting honours with a wavering and vulnerable Gertrude, and Michelle Butterly unabashedly steals the Yorick scene as a Scouse scally of a gravedigger.
Above all though this production confirms that Maxine Peake’s appointment here, as an associate artist, is one in which she and the Exchange have a lot to offer eachother.
Hamlet’s extended run is to October 25.