SHE has played the GP tending to the needs of the inhabitants Britain’s most famous street for almost 10 years but for her latest role Christine Mackie, in her own words, “is not a woman you would want to go to for a consultation about an ingrowing toenail”.

For Christine - Dr Susan Gabbas on Coronation Street - is currently taking the lead role in Lear at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester.

This radical reworking of the Shakespearean classic is the work of Her Productions and features an all female and non binary cast.

“I am so chuffed to be part of this,” said Christine. “I can’t tell you how enormous a shock it was to be asked to do it. It came out of nowhere. I was on a Zoom call with the producers when they asked me, I was so shocked, I must have looked like this slack jawed fool.”

A slack jawed fool is one thing Christine’s Lear definitely is not. And she hopes that audiences will appreciate the different dynamic this production offers.

Lancashire Telegraph: Christine Mackie in Lear

“I am not going to be playing a man, I am playing Lear,” she said. “My interpretation and personality of this character is described by Shakespeare and the people in the play. We’re not changing pronouns, I am King Lear and I will look like me.

“It’s a new way of seeing something by seeing a woman actor playing Lear and talking to his daughters in that way. It adds another dimension.”

King Lear is one of THE great roles for an actor but it also represents a tremendous challenge.

“Oh, it’s a huge challenge,” said Christine. “Even if people are not that familiar with Shakespeare they know about King Lear. It is one of those parts.

“I’ve seen Lear on stage three times, including Tom Courtney at the Royal Exchange and I’ve been looking online at Glenda Jackson and Kathryn Hunter who both played Lear.

“I have known about the role since November and the few friends I told about it didn’t seem to think that it was completely mad that I should do it so that was reassuring.

“And also I’ve read two very good books by actors preparing to play Lear - Oliver Ford Davies and Anthony Sher - charting their anticipation and getting closer to doing it. I loved reading about their journey and picking things apart. After all that’s what acting is, detective work.

“But the whole experience has been wonderful. It has made me feel like I’m in a club of people who have done it. I found comfort and encouragement in that.

“Nobody gets all of Lear right. This is going to be my Lear and I’m going to give it my best shot and I am very much looking forward to it.”

As well as her role on Coronation Street, Christine is also written two plays - Best Girl and Kin - and has also directed. On TV she has also appeared in Downton Abbey.

But you sense that the opportunity to play Lear represents something very special to her.

“What fascinates me is that there are so many things in the script that relate not just to Lear’s state of mind but to the state of health.

“It’s going back to the detective work and working out what am I going to bring to it. I’m not being ‘aged up’ so decrepitude will not be part of it; I will be bringing experiences as person of my age and as a mother. I’m someone who always looks at a play to try and find the best way to tell the story.

“In Lear the characters are very straightforward and the play has a great drive to it. I’m confident that people, whether they have seen Shakespeare before or not, will get a great deal from it.

“It’s absolutely gripping. You have this story of Lear and his journey to being a supreme leader yet who learns that he is just a basic human being like everyone else. It’s a big lesson to learn.

“I’m interested in characters who get themselves into a corner and just can’t get out and the consequences that follow. It’s probably not the scholarly way to talk about Lear but it’s a very human fault.”

Christine is hopeful that this version of Lear will attract new audiences to Shakespeare.

“Sarah Siddons played Hamlet in Eighteenth Century and there is no reason why any of these parts in classical plays can’t be revisited,” she said. “This is our visit to this world of Lear. If you have not seen it before there may be a bit of having to orientate yourself at the start but then it’s off we go and I think you will enjoy the ride.

“There is always a moment in any play where the audience has to acclimatise, not just Shakespeare. You have got to give yourself up to it and give us a chance to take you with us. We’re not forcing you to enjoy something that’s not meant to be enjoyed. It is an enjoyable work.

“What I find so particularly thrilling about this production is that there are so many young actors - some getting their first role - involved. There is so little opportunity to do Shakespeare now because theatres can’t afford to mount the productions because of funding changes.

“You might do Shakespeare at drama school or university but you rarely get the chance to do it one stage professionally. That’s a terrible shame as there is such richness to be got from it.”

Lear will feature a cast of 12, an unusually large cast for regional theatre.

“When I started that was the company but now it’s the norm that plays are two handers or four hands. That’s fine as there are some marvellous plays which can be done that way - I’ve written two of them,” she laughed. “But it’s just thrilling to have a larger cast it’s going to be a real ride.”

That ride will not end at Hope Mill for Lear will then transfer to the new Shakespeare North Playhouse at Prescot.

“How wonderful is that?” said Christine. “That will be a real pleasure to take it there.”

As for the residents of Weatherfield, they need not worry about losing their family doctor for good.

“Oh, I’ll still be their genial GP,” laughed Christine. “It’s coming up for 10 years now that I’ve been on the show. If I had pound for every time someone mentioned Dr Gaddas I’d be sitting pretty.

“But I love doing Corrie. I have made some very good friends and it’s an honour to be associated with such a remarkable programme. I do love to get to come out of the surgery and walk on the cobbles; that’s still a thrill. And even now it still makes me a bit nervous when I go into the Rovers.”

Lear is at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester, until Saturday, June 18. Details from It is then at the Shakespeare North Playhouse from June 21 to June 24