The production is a collaboration between HER Productions, Unseemly Women, and Girl Gang Manchester, and will be staged at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester from June 7-18, before moving to Shakespeare North’s Cockpit Theatre from June 21-24.
It marks the company’s fifth all-female and non-binary joint Shakespearean production, directed by Kayleigh Hawkins, who is working with Mackie to bring a fresh and boundary-less approach to the character of Lear.
Set in a world where systems are breaking down, Lear is forced to collide with the working class, a group he has abandoned and let down.
The play explores how a plush corporate boardroom can fall into ruin and disarray.
In an interview, Mackie expressed her excitement about the role, saying, “I am so very excited about playing Lear in this all-female and non-binary production; it is the most accessible and human story, the language is just beautiful and it is full of fantastic characters.
“Lear’s journey is pretty daunting; from supreme leader to someone who learns to feel ‘what wretches feel’ and as a mother of daughters myself, I’m fascinated by Lear’s family relationships… honestly, I cannot wait to start working with this fantastic cast and creative team on this extraordinary play. To be doing so in the North West is also a real delight.”
Mackie is no stranger to the world of theatre, having played several Shakespearean roles in the past.
This marks her sixth Shakespearean role, having previously played Titania in MSND, Adrianna in Comedy of Errors, Elizabeth in Richard III, and Lady Macduff in Macbeth, twice.
In 2019, Mackie received critical acclaim for writing her very first play, Best Girl, which she took to both the Greater Manchester and Edinburgh Fringe. Her daughter, actress Lois Mackie, starred in the play. Last year, her new play KIN premiered at the Dukes in Lancaster and will tour in 2024.
Completing the cast are Alice Proctor as Edgar, Haylie Jones as Edmund, Gina Fillingham as Goneril, Teddy Oyediran as Regan, Ella Heywood as Cordelia, Fiona Scott as Gloucester, Adelina Lece-Bere as Kent, Phoebe Farrington as Fool, Emily Heyworth as Albany, Amy Du Quesne as Cornwall, and Nellie Fogarty as Oswald.
HER Productions, Unseemly Women, and Girl Gang Manchester are known for staging annual Shakespeare productions that are always female-led.
The productions are designed to showcase local talent and highlight how an all-female and non-binary company can create universal work.
The productions are called ‘Unseemly’ by name and unseemly by nature. In 2022, the companies proudly began a new partnership with Shakespeare North Playhouse, touring their productions to Prescot, as well as their resident home at Hope Mill Theatre.
Hannah Ellis Ryan, HER Productions founder and LEAR producer, said, “Lear feels like the ‘next stage’ in every way possible.
“We are in the Cockpit theatre at SNP, we have the phenomenal Christine Mackie with us, and we are organically growing as a company every year. I really feel audiences are in for a very special treat with this sleek, Succession-style, version of Shakespeare, which we also believe will be the first time Lear has been cast and staged with an all-female and non-binary cast.”
Speaking of the all-female and non-binary cast, Mackie praised the inclusivity and diversity it brings to the production. “I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “I’ve never been in an all-female and non-binary company before, and it’s so exciting. It’s a really talented group of actors and creatives, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”
The production will also explore themes of class and power, with the monarch colliding with the working class and facing the consequences of neglecting them. Mackie believes this adds a fresh perspective to the play, making it relevant to contemporary audiences.
“I think it’s going to be really interesting to see how we approach the class aspect of the play,” she said. “We’re living in a time where there’s a huge divide between the rich and poor, and this production will highlight the effects of that divide. It’s not just about the king and his family, but the people they’ve abandoned and left behind. It’s a really powerful message.”
Mackie is also excited to be working with director Kayleigh Hawkins, whom she describes as “brilliant.”
She believes Hawkins’ vision for the production will bring a fresh and contemporary perspective to the play.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Kayleigh,” she said. “She has a really clear vision for the play and is not afraid to take risks.
“She’s open to exploring new ideas and approaches, which is really exciting for me as an actor.”
HER Productions, Unseemly Women & Girl Gang Manchester have been staging all-female and non-binary Shakespeare productions for several years now, and Mackie believes their commitment to inclusivity and diversity is what makes their productions so special.
“I think it’s really important to have diversity in theatre,” she said. “It’s important to see all different types of people represented on stage. And with this production, we’re not only showcasing female and non-binary talent, but we’re also highlighting the talent that exists in the North West. It’s a really exciting project to be a part of.”
Lear will be playing at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester from June 7-18, followed by Shakespeare North’s Cockpit Theatre from June 21-24. With a talented cast and crew, and a fresh perspective on the play, this production is sure to be a highlight of the theatrical calendar.
As Mackie said, “It’s going to be a really special production, and I can’t wait for audiences to see it.”
You can get tickets to Hope Mill Theatre performances here
You can get tickets to the Shakespeare North’s Cockpit Theatre performances here