Born in 1946, the son
of a Hull fishworker, Rutter grew up in a two-up two-down on the Hessle
Road, the fishdock area of Hull, around the corner from Tom Courtney.
At school, an English teacher frogmarched him into the school play because
he had "the gob for it", and feeling at home on stage, Rutter chose his
future direction. There followed a period at the Royal Scottish Academy
of Music & Drama and many years in the National Youth Theatre culminating
in The Apprentices' by Peter Tierson - a role specially written for him,
a practice to be repeated later in his career.
Seasons at the RSC in Stratford, London and Europe completed the 1970s.
In 1980 he joined the National Theatre, a formative period. He met and worked
closely with a poet who was to become his guru, Tony Harrison. Rutter performed
in all three of Harrison's adaptations, all written for the Northern voice:
The Mysteries, The Orestia, and The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus. In Trackers,
the part of Silenus was written especially for Rutter. It was this experience
of performing in the northern voice that germinated the idea for Northern
Trackers toured to a wool-combing shed in Salts Mill, three miles north
of Bradford. This was to be Rutter's 'Damascus'. He was deeply affected
by the raw emotion of speaking to a northern audience in a northern voice
in a classical play.
Northern Broadsides officially began when two projects in which he was to
star - a major TV series and world tour of the Tony Harrison play - bit
the dust. His agent suggested Rutter start his own company, and so he did.
In 1992, he assembled some of the cast of Trackers and created Northern
Broadsides, thanks to a grant of £15K from Hull City Council and Yorkshire
and Humberside Arts, office space in Halifax at a nominal rate from entrepreneur
Sir Ernest Hall, free rehearsal space from fellow entrepreneur Jonathan
Silver at his Salts Mill, and free administrative support from the Bradford
The company's aesthetic, as Rutter explained, was "Northern voices, doing
classical work in non-velvet spaces". Wherever they performed, this radical
new aesthetic excited the critics.
The first production, Richard III, took the company to a variety of unusual
venues including the Marina Boatshed in Hull, West Yorkshire Transport Museum
in Bradford and Middleham Castle, North Yorkshire. Since that first production,
Northern Broadsides has continued to tour to unusual spaces across the world,
for example - the Rose Garden in Chandigarh, India, a Roman amphitheatre
in Austria (where they performed with live bears and lions on stage!), and
the Tower of London!
With the company's success has come invitations from theatres and spaces
nationwide. Northern Broadsides will perform anywhere from proscenium and
in-the-round to castles, churches, cattle markets, train sheds, post-industrial
mills and riding stables across the UK.
The company's home base remains in Halifax. Their performance and rehearsal
space is a subterranean viaduct beneath what was Crossley's carpet mill.
Renamed Dean Clough, this large old Victorian mill is now a thriving arts
and enterprise centre owned by Sir Ernest Hall.
When Rutter first encountered the dark arches and rough hewn floors under
Dean Clough, the space sparked his imagination. Where everyone saw a dank,
dirty basement fit only for car-parking, Rutter saw a theatre. Christened
The Viaduct, it has thrilled audiences and critics alike with its post-industrial
character and unique atmosphere. All Northern Broadsides productions now
open at The Viaduct and London critics make the arduous physical and mental
journey north of Watford to review Northern Broadsides productions.
Since the company's humble beginnings in 1992, it has gone from strength
to strength, from surviving hand-to-mouth on a shoestring budget for years,
to winning numerous awards, culminating in the country's largest and most
lucrative arts prize - Creative Briton 2000 - awarded to Rutter with a cheque
for £100,000 to spend on his company.
For the Royal Shakespeare Company:~ Henry IV, Henry V, Coriolanus and
The Taming of the Shrew.
For the Royal National Theatre:~ The Mysteries, The Crucible, Guys and
Dolls, The Oresteia, The Rivals, Animal Farm, Martine and The Trackers
of Oxyrhynchus .