HORWICH actress Maxine Peake’s is to take the title role in a new version of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre.

The play, which opens on April 11, sees the star of Silk and Shameless play the beautiful and imperious Miss Julie, despondent after breaking off her engagement and left alone in her father’s mansion on a Swedish country estate on a hot midsummer’s eve.

The drama centres on her relationship with footman Jean — handsome, anarchic, resentful of the class system but greedy to rise to the top. For many years he has watched her and desired her. Passions simmer as they find themselves alone together below stairs. Through the heat of the night an exchange of dreams and memories builds to a fevered duel.

Strindberg’s late nineteenth century masterpiece caused a scandal when first produced and has been hugely popular ever since for its searingly honest portrait of the class system and human sexuality.

The play has been adapted from a literal translation by Charlotte Barslund by David Eldridge – one of the UK’s most exciting contemporary writers, whose plays have been staged at the National, Donmar Warehouse, Bush and Hampstead theatres over the last 15 years. It will be directed by the Exchange’s artistic director Sarah Francom.

She said: “When I first read it, I was troubled and excited by it in equal measure. Then over time I became interested in the fact that at the centre of the play there is a psychologically complex character – you’re watching two people living at the full extent of their animal instinct.

“It’s enthralling. If it’s done right, the audience are on the edge of their seats – they can’t breathe.”

Peake last appeared at the theatre in an equally controversial play, The Children’s Hour, while the role of Jean will be taken by Royal Exchange debutante Joe Armstrong, whose TV credits include Allan A dale in the BBC series Robin Hood.

It is to be a busy month for Peake, as her film Edge will receive a limited release across the UK on Friday, April 13. The film tells the story of six people who check in to the remote Cliff Edge Hotel, and whose lives will change forever as a result of their encounter. The film was written and directed by Carol Morley, and was shot in 2010. It was shown at that year’s London Film Festival, and at last year’s Shanghai Film Festival. The film also stars Oldham actor Paul Hilton, who has since appeared alongside Peake in the BBC law drama Silk, which returns for a second series this spring.

• Miss Julie will run from April 11 to May 12. Tickets cost £9 to £33. To book, visit royalexchange.co.uk or ring 0161 833 9833.