She is best known for starring in Silk and The Village but Maxine Peake has another, darker, string to her bow. Away from the cameras, she has been recording songs about the Pendle witch trials with The Eccentronic Research Council. The Sheffield collective, led by musicians Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer, asked the actress to narrate their concept album 1612 Underture last year. “I never expected I would perform it”, Peake tells me.
Now, having appeared with the band at the album launch and Festival No. 6, she is preparing to perform the album in full at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh on Halloween, among the paintings of the current show, Witches & Wicked Bodies.
For previous performances Peake has got into the spirit, donning a gothic dress, bird’s nest hair and blood-red lips to deliver spooky Lancashire vocals over the band’s pyschedelic synths. “It’s very strange. With acting, you’re reacting to other people around you and trying not to be too conscious of the audience. With this, I really have to perform. But it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek”, she says. “I’m not a singer. I tinkle on the keyboard a bit. And I do play the theremin.” Where did you learn that? “I didn’t. I just attack it with a bit of gusto.”
This will be, says Peake, the last time she appears with The ERC on stage. “I think once we’ve done Edinburgh, it’s time to draw it to a close. It is a very specific piece.”
Further information and tickets for the event see the National Galleries Scotland website.
The ERC ft Maxine Peake release a vinyl only single in honour of Delia Derbyshire on 20 October on the Desolate Spools label with an album to follow in December.1612 Underture is available now on Finderskeepers records.