By Shelley Marsden
ACCLAIMED actress Maxine Peake has said she joined the cast of a low-budget Irish film because it treated its tough subject matter in a ‘real’ way.
Run and Jump, which showed last Sunday as part of the London Irish Film Festival, tells the story of an Irish family whose father (played by Edward MacLiam) has suffered a brain injury after a stroke.
His wife Venetia (Peake) is doing her best to keep the family together when an American doctor arrives to check on his recovery.
“It wasn’t coated in sentiment; it was about how real people deal with real things”, the Bolton-born actress told the Irish World. “No matter how dark life gets, you find some humour because if you don’t, you crumble. There’s no time to get self-indulgent.”
Dark humour runs throughout the film, coming through particularly in difficult moments – a trait the actress believes the Irish and Northern English have in common.
Maxine, who used brad Pitt’s dialect coach Brendan Gunn to perfect her Irish accent for the part, said: “We seem to use that same stoic sense of humour in similar ways and situations. And also, the Irish talk as much as I do which is saying something. Our women especially laugh through it.”
Her character reminded the actress of her late mother, who passed away five years ago: “Even when she was really poorly, if you didn’t make her laugh and keep your chin up, my mum did not want to know. She was a complex woman, very emotionally strong. Venetia reminded me of her a lot.”
The Silk star, who has just finished filming on upcoming Stephen Hawking biopic The Fear of Everything with Eddie Redmayne, feels there are not enough such realistic representations of women on screen.
She said: “I want to recognise the women I know in roles I choose. People are always telling me I play ‘strong women’ but what does that even mean? To me, that’s because women are normally incredibly strong.”
When she met Run and Jump’s Oscar-nominated director Steph Green, who had flown over from Dublin to discuss the project, she was sold after ten minutes: “I was like, this is going to be special. You can just tell.”
Shooting in Ireland is an experience the star recalls with obvious pleasure. It was just her second trip, having attended a friend’s wedding in Northern Ireland – during which she squeezed in a day-trip to Dublin.
She said: “I was immediately kicking myself for not having been for any length of time before. We were in Dun Laoghaire and then moved on to Dingle, which was just breathtaking. You fall in love with it a bit. I came back here and said to my boyfriend, ‘Maybe we should move to Ireland?!’ It doesn’t feel like anywhere else. Everyone has this very romantic view of Ireland but I can understand why now!”
Dubliner Edward MacLiam, best known to UK telly viewers as doctor Greg Douglas in Holby City, played her husband and Maxine, who has spoken before about how unimpressed she is by actors’ diva antics, appreciated his no-nonsense attitude on set.
She said: “I’d thought a male actor playing a role like that could be tricky, because they’re intense and insist on staying in character – men playing difficult roles can be demanding on set. But Ed got his head down and was totally on the nail.
“My mum would always say, ‘It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil’ and that’s what demanding actors are like. Ed’s a RADA boy and I do think, contrary to popular belief, there’s a certain breed of RADA graduates that just go in there and get the job done.”
Maxine Peake’s career began with a small role in Victoria Wood’s Dinner Ladies, before landing a part in Shameless and, more recently, TV drama hits Silk and World War 1 period drama The Village.