ACTRESS Maxine Peake will take to the stage as Hamlet in a radical re-imagining of the Shakespeare classic.

The talented performer, who went to Westhoughton High School, will join Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre as an associate artist in autumn 2014.

Directed by Royal Exchange artistic director Sarah Frankcom, Hamlet will be the first of a number of exciting collaborations with the theatre.

Maxine, aged 39, whose TV credits include Silk, The Village, Red Riding and Shameless, said: "Sarah and I have looked for a project that would stretch and excite us and Hamlet just seemed the next natural step to challenge us both in so many ways.

“I am so excited how gender swapping can affect and throw up new ways of looking at this theatrical masterpiece; then to be asked to join the Exchange as an artistic associate was just the cherry on the cake.

“I am so honoured to be part of this building’s future for a little while, especially in this climate of savage cuts when more than ever we need to support our wonderful regional theatres.

“I feel no need to compete with London, more than ever local people need a voice and a creative outlet in these extreme times and I feel the Exchange has a huge role to play in that."

The role of Hamlet will reunite her with Sarah, following the huge success of The Masque of Anarchy, Shelley’s epic poem written in the wake of the Peterloo Massacre, which was performed to more than 6,000 people as part of this year’s Manchester International Festival.

The role as associate artist will draw on Maxine’s talents as one of the nation’s best-loved actors and also as an increasingly exciting writer.

It will include opportunities for her to get involved in the theatre’s pioneering work with community groups and young people and work with young actors from across the city.

The appointment is the development of a long-standing relationship with the Royal Exchange which has already seen collaborations on a number of acclaimed productions including Rutherford and Son, The Children’s Hour and, most recently, Miss Julie.