Barrie Rutter

Authored by: Christian M. Billing

The Routledge Companion to Directors’ Shakespeare

Print publication date:  April  2010
Online publication date:  June  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415400442
eBook ISBN: 9780203932520
Adobe ISBN: 9781134146482


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Biography is important in a study of Barrie Rutter’s work, for to understand where the man is from and the route he took to a career running one of Britain’s most significant alternative classical theatre companies is to understand much about his approach to the direction of Shakespeare, his stripped-down production aesthetic and his oftentimes audacious performance style. Rutter was born in Hull, East Yorkshire in December 1946. The town, still based at that time very largely around its maritime economy, had only recently had the guts bombed out of it during the Second World War and was struggling to rebuild itself. His family lived in a fish-dock house: a two-up, two-down Victorian terrace in the deprived Hessle Road area of the city; both generations of immediate relatives worked in the fishing industry, an insular working-class community that limped its way unsteadily from wartime damage to eventual destruction in the next conflict to hit: the Cod War with Iceland in the 1970s. Although not particularly gifted in an academic sense, Rutter benefited from one of the brief blips of egalitarianism to light on the British education system and went to one of the bog-standard grammar schools that the socialist educationalists of post-war England allowed working-class children to attend. He there found refuge from a home life that was in his own estimation deeply unpleasant and, despite setbacks like a grandfather who burned his grandson’s schoolbooks, achieved moderate success.

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