Lancaster actress famous for Coronation Street and Downton Abbey takes on unusual new role

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Lancaster is home to a new king now that Christine Mackie has taken on a right royal role of a lifetime.

Christine, who plays Dr Gaddas in Coronation Street, was ‘knocked for six’ when approached to take on a Shakespearean role usually depicted by a man.

But she’s risen to the challenge and is currently performing at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester until Saturday before transferring to Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot from June 21-24.

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“I was astonished to be asked to play Lear but I’m so excited about it.”

Christine Mackie as Lear. Picture: HER ProductionsChristine Mackie as Lear. Picture: HER Productions
Christine Mackie as Lear. Picture: HER Productions

The last time Christine appeared in a Shakespeare play was Richard III at Lancaster Castle about 14 years ago so she was daunted at the prospect of performing such an iconic role as Lear.

Before deciding to take the part, Christine asked to be sent the first scene to make sure she could learn it.

“I did learn it and fell in love with the play. The story is so strong and full of action, cruelty, love and vengeance.”

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Christine learned the rest of her lines while walking her whippet, Spig, on Quay Meadow.

Christine Mackie.Christine Mackie.
Christine Mackie.

The play is the story of an ageing monarch who, before dividing up a vast kingdom between three daughters, asks them to prove which loves Lear best.

King Lear was actually the first play Christine ever saw at Lancaster’s Dukes theatre where she worked for many years and is now a patron.

This new production has a contemporary setting and has been likened to the television drama series, Succession. It has been made by HER Productions, a Manchester company of female theatre makers.

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Christine’s daughter, Lois, appeared in HER’s first Shakespeare production of Romeo & Juliet and HER director, Kayleigh Hawkins, also directed Best Girl, the first play Christine wrote.

This current production of Lear features a female and non-binary cast.

“I don’t think a woman playing a traditionally male role is an issue but it actually adds poignancy to see a woman playing the mother of daughters, it’s not a gimmick,” said Christine.

“Theatre should be about inclusivity and hold up a mirror to society. This production reflects what’s going on in the world...”

Once she’s relinquished her crown, Christine – who also played Daphne Bryant in Downton Abbey – will return to her Coronation Street surgery later this month.