A born storyteller, her intense northern grit is layered beneath the facade of privileged nobility. Like last years The Masque Of Anarchy (probably the highlight of Peake's career to date) it is her command of the English language that dominates the stage, her self-assuredness and acute intelligence evident in an understanding of the source material that even English professors would envy. What has cemented Peake as one of the finest theatre actresses of her generation is her innate ability to transcend class, to rise above the limitations of her "type" and become so much more than just Veronica in Shameless... but her marked chamelion-esque CV doesn't stretch quite as far as justifying her casting here.
This was my first time seeing Hamlet on stage, but while it had high aspirations of becoming a "landmark Hamlet", it shot itself in its foot with the gimmick that should have been its strength. Regardless of Peake's strength as an actress and the truly superb marathon she drags herself through on stage, the piece screams of culture for culture's sake and the life it breathes into this theatrical staple is stunted by its blatant attempt at a publicity stunt. Call me cynical, but the Royal Exchange's online resources that claim it to be a piece about transgenderism is questionable. Though Peake's shorn hair and shapeless clothes un-sex the character, the role remains male despite being played by a woman, even though this is not the case for the other gender swaps. Where this Hamlet sits on the gender spectrum is unimportant of course, because Hamlet is Hamlet, surely? Well, not when you layer meaning over the top that serves as nothing but a distraction.