Anne Lister, the young heiress to the 400 acre Shibden Hall Estate, is in love with York doctor’s daughter, the beautiful Mariana Belcombe. Their passion for each other is all too obvious to their female friends but utterly hidden from society at large. But society’s rules cannot be ignored and Mariana decides that she must marry out of social and economic necessity. Anne is distraught but Mariana tries to convince her that things needn’t change; she’ll write, they’ll still see each other, in fact, it could be good for them…
Maxine Peake’s performance blows a hole through the familiar frocks and bonnets setting. There’s no showboating, she’s pale, quiet, momentarily happy, but always consumed, and she leaves you wondering: is there a better actor in Britain today?
Peake is an extraordinary actress – both intensely human in her vulnerability and intensely disquieting … she was wonderfully well-cast here, veering between predatory seductiveness and agonised self-pity.
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister was notable for just how brilliantly right-on and rad it was… For starters it was almost entirely female cast…and, in the middle of it all, was the amazing Miss Lister – three hundred years ahead of her time, a little outpost of early rock’n’roll amongst the calico, carpets and coal of Halifax. Throughout, Peake depicts her as what she was – in her own way, as much of an explorer as Livingstone, as much of a revolutionary as Che Guevara.
….a charismatic performance by Maxine Peake (with) fine support from Anna Madeley as her married lover and Susan Lynch as her best friend
The Sunday Times
In this beautiful-looking drama, a luminous Maxine Peake played Anne from her first passionate love affairs to the end of her days. …perfectly pitched acting with Susan Lynch particularly good.
James Kent's BBC production is a hotbed of forbidden passions that is neither too high-minded nor bodice-ripping purple. Though a distrib deal hasn't been announced yet, U.S. theatrical release is rumored for this fall, and the pic is sure to become a long-term favorite among its target demo. …. the Yorkshire countryside looks gorgeous. Performances are expert.
This story gripped, and haunted, and was beautifully and cleverly played, and had me wondering how we’d never heard it before.