There’s sexual politics in ‘Rules of the Game’

Tuesday:Rules of the Game; (BBC One, 9pm)

Programme Name: Rules of the Game - TX: n/a - Episode: Rules of the Game - Generics (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Gareth (KIERAN BEW), Maya (RAKHEE THAKRAR), Owen (BEN BATT), Sam (MAXINE PEAKE) - (C) The Forge - Photographer: Guy Farrow
Programme Name: Rules of the Game - TX: n/a - Episode: Rules of the Game - Generics (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Gareth (KIERAN BEW), Maya (RAKHEE THAKRAR), Owen (BEN BATT), Sam (MAXINE PEAKE) - (C) The Forge - Photographer: Guy Farrow

You wait for months for the next Maxine Peake vehicle to come along and then what happens – two appear in quick succession.

Last week she popped up on ITV in the moving three-part drama Anne, in which she played Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams. Now she’s nipping over to the Beeb for a four-part thriller that’s sure to get tongues wagging across the country.

Since first coming to the nation’s attention as Twinkle in Victoria Wood’s masterful sitcom dinnerladies, Peake has always been – and will continue to be – a woman in demand. However, it wasn’t always that way.

Despite spending her teenage years as a member of youth theatres and gaining experience in amateur dramatics, she found it difficult to land a place to study drama once she left school. It was until, at the age of 21, that Peake was accepted by Rada. Perhaps that relatively late start has meant that, in the years since, she’s grabbed every opportunity that came her way, determined to make a go of something that almost never happened.

Although her first major TV role was in a comedy, Peake’s biggest and most acclaimed projects since then have often been heavy dramas. She played Myra Hindley in See No Evil: The Moors Murders, portrayed a barrister in the legal drama Silk, featured in Mike Leigh’s Peterloo and had a leading role as a real-life health worker in Three Girls, about the Rochdale child sex abuse ring.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Peake’s name is usually a mark of quality – which is why Rules of the Game should be listed as a ‘must-see’ by anybody looking for thought-provoking entertainment.

Written by Ruth Fowler and directed by Jennifer Sheridan, who has previously worked on Cuckoo, The League of Gentlemen and her debut movie Rose – a Love Story, the tale takes place within a family run business in the north west of England.

Peake plays Sam, its hard-headed manager whose world is turned on its head when she arrives at work one day to find a dead body. She then begins piecing together the moments that led to her grisly discovery, beginning with the arrival of newly hired HR director Maya.

Sam tells her that nothing needs to change, and that the newcomer should concentrate on helping deal with the firm’s upcoming stock market flotation. But as reports of a toxic atmosphere begin filtering through, Maya decides to investigate what is going on behind the scenes.

“Working alongside my fellow sisters each day, with their commitment and understanding towards Ruth Fowler’s script about sexual politics in the workplace, with Jennifer Sheridan directing, has reminded me once again why we need to keep fighting for more women to have a voice in the filmmaking process,” says Peake.

Rakhee Thakrar, who co-stars as Maya, agrees: “It’s been pure joy working with this cast, who all bring such authenticity, heart and humour to any scene. Maxine Peake in particular has been an absolute highlight as our lead.”

Watch out too for Alison Steadman, Enola Holmes, Zoe Tapper and Ben Batt among the supporting cast.

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