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Maxine Peake to star in Avalanche: A Love Story

Maxine Peake

Maxine Peake is to star in Julia Leigh’s adaptation of her powerful memoir, Avalanche: A Love Story, at the Barbican from Saturday 27 April–Sunday 12 May. A prolific theatre, television and film actress Maxine Peake’s career highlights include Black Mirror, Funny Cow, Red Riding, The Devil’s Whore, The Theory of Everything, Peterloo, The Falling, Shameless and an extensive list of dramas for the BBC including The Village, Silk, Criminal Justice, Three Girls and most recently, The Bisexual.  Constantly looking for new challenges and surprising audiences she has played a range of provocative and award-winning characters, notably the title role in Hamlet at the Manchester Royal Exchange. As a writer, she has retold fascinating stories of women in British history who achieved greatness, or faced adversity, though her plays, Beryl, The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca and Queens of the Coal Age. Avalanche: A Love Story marks her debut at the Barbican Theatre.

When a woman rekindles an early love in her late 30’s her whole life changes. Deeply in love, she and her new husband decide they want to have a child together and, like countless other couples, they make a visit to the IVF clinic, full of optimism. So begins a long and costly journey of medical procedures, nightly injections, rituals and the oscillation between high hope and the depths of despair.

Avalanche lays bare the stark truth of one woman’s experience of the seductive promises made by the multi-billion-dollar IVF industry to those in the grip of a “snow blind” yearning and desire to make a baby. The devastating toll on her body, her relationships and her career as an author/filmmaker, are portrayed with compelling honesty and moments of black humour. At the heart of this dramatisation is an exploration of who we are and how we love - the potent power of the desire for family and future. Inspired by Leigh’s story, it is a courageous and ultimately wise account of a profoundly important and widespread experience. 

Avalanche: A Love Story is the centrepiece of Fertility Fest 2019, the only arts festival devoted entirely to the subjects of modern families and the science of making babies, now in its third year. Founded by Jessica Hepburn and Gabby Vautier, Fertility Fest is a rare, open and collaborative platform that aims to drive social change through improved fertility education, patient mental health, care and general public discourse about fertility and infertility. This latest, expanded edition of Fertility Fest will run from Tuesday 23 April–Saturday 18 May and is presented in association with the Barbican as part of the 2019 season Life Rewired which explores what it means to be human when technology is changing everything.

Directed by Anne-Louise Sarks, Avalanche: A Love Story, is co-produced by the Barbican, Fertility Fest and Sydney Theatre Company and will play at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Sydney, from Thursday 29 August–Saturday 14 September 2019.

Julia Leigh’s debut novel, The Hunter, was published around the world and won numerous awards, including a Betty Trask Award and the 2001 Prix de l’Astrolabe. It was also selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her second novel, Disquiet, won the Encore Award. Her film Sleeping Beauty was officially selected for the Festival de Cannes in 2011. Her memoir, Avalanche: A Love Story, was published in 2016 to international acclaim.

Anne-Louise Sarks is one of Australia’s most prolific directors. Her work has premiered in Sydney, Melbourne, London, Basel, Mexico City, New York, Auckland, Warsaw, Mannheim, Perth and Mumbai. 

In 2018 Sarks was Artistic Director of the Lyric Ensemble at the Lyric Hammersmith and from 2013–2016 was Resident Director at Belvoir Street Theatre, Sydney. In 2011 she was the Director in Residence at the Malthouse Theatre Company in Melbourne, and an Associate Artist for Belvoir. From 2010-2013 she was Artistic Director of the celebrated independent theatre company The Hayloft Project.  

In 2018 Sarks directed a new production of her acclaimed Medea for Theater Basel, created a new devised work Abandon with the Lyric Ensemble, directed a new feminist adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People for Belvoir, and directed Sarah Kane’s Blasted at the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne. In 2017 she directed Seventeen for The Lyric Hammersmith, Jasper Jones for Belvoir, Minnie & Liraz for Melbourne Theatre Company, Merchant of Venice for Bell Shakespeare and The Testament of Mary for Malthouse Theatre.

In 2015 Sarks directed a new modern day imagining of Medea, co-written with Kate Mulvany, at The Gate Theatre in London. Medea won five 2013 Sydney Theatre Awards including Best Direction, Best Mainstage Production and Best New Australian Work. It was also awarded an AWGIE for Best Stage Play and in 2013 was nominated for four prestigious Helpmann Awards including Best Direction, Best New Australian Work and Best Play. 


Notes to Editors

Life Rewired is the Barbican’s year-long arts and learning season exploring what it means to be human when technology is changing everything. Running throughout 2019, the season investigates the impact of the pace and extent of technological change on our culture and society, looking at how we can grasp and respond to the seismic shifts these advances will bring about.

Life Rewired demonstrates how artists are finding imaginative ways to communicate the human impact of unprecedented technological shifts and scientific advances, as well as finding creative new uses for Artificial Intelligence, big data, algorithms and virtual reality. 

About Fertility Fest
Fertility Fest is the world’s first arts festival dedicated to modern families and reproductive science. Founded by Jessica Hepburn and Gabby Vautier in 2016, the festival draws on their extensive experience as leading arts producers with theatre companies including the Lyric Hammersmith and Young Vic to create a fresh and distinctive festival that uses the power of the arts to explore the complex societal issues and emotional experiences of modern-family making. The aim of the festival is to produce and present the work of artists across all artistic disciplines – theatre, dance, music, visual art, literature and film – in order to bring about social change in the field of fertility, particularly in terms of improving public understanding about reproductive science, fertility education and patient solidarity and support. 

To date there have been two editions: in 2016 at the Birmingham Rep and London’s Park Theatre; in 2018 at London’s Bush Theatre and at ESHRE Barcelona (the largest fertility conference in the world). The 2018 festival featured over 200 artists and fertility experts and it has become a unique event that brings together, professionals, patients and the public to discuss all aspects of making families in the modern world, one of the most important societal developments of our times.
Hannah McMillan, Midas Public Relations
020 7361 7886
[email protected] 


Listings information

Avalanche: A Love Story
Inspired by Julia Leigh’s memoir, Avalanche
Barbican/Fertility Fest
Directed by Anne-Louise Sarks
Design by Marg Horwell
Sat 27 Apr–Sun 12 May 2019
Barbican Theatre
7.45pm; 3pm only on Sun 28 Apr, Sun 5 and Sun 12 May 2019; also 2.30pm on Sat 4 and Sat 11 May
1 hour 30 mins/no interval
£16–60 plus booking fee (£2 off top three ticket prices for preview performances on Sat 27, Sun 28 & Tue 30 Apr 2019)
Age guidance 14+
Press night: Wed 1 May 2019, 7.45pm
Captioned performance: Thu 9 May 2019, 7.45pm
Audio-described performance: Fri 10 May 2019, 7.45pm
Produced by Barbican Theatre Productions and Fertility Fest
Co-produced by Sydney Theatre Company