Barrie Rutter

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Barrie Rutter

Rutter in 2015
Born (1946-12-12) 12 December 1946 (age 72)
OccupationActor, theatre company director
Years active1969–present

Barrie Thomas Rutter OBE (born 12 December 1946) is an English actor and the founder and artistic director of the Northern Broadsides theatre company based in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England.


Rutter was born and brought up in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England, and after leaving school (Greatfield High School, Newton Hall) studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.[1][unreliable source?]

In the 1970s he worked with the National Youth Theatre (where Peter Terson wrote a role for him in The Apprentices) and the Royal Shakespeare Company. In the 1980s he performed in three adaptations by the poet Tony Harrison.

Rutter founded Northern Broadsides in 1992 and the company performs at its Halifax base and on tour. Rutter has played major parts in many of its productions.[2]

He has appeared in many films and television programmes, including Countdown to War, Queenie's Castle and a regular role in the early 1980s ITV sitcom Astronauts and as armed robber Oakes in the film version of the BBC sitcom Porridge. He appeared in 5 episodes of the television series Fat Friends in 2004–05, playing Douglas Simpson.[3]

In 2009 Rutter directed Lenny Henry in a production of Othello.[4] He said of the decision to cast the comedian, "knives might be out at me or at Lenny. I don't care. This has come about from a completely genuine desire to do a piece of theatrical work. Bloody hell, how long has the Donmar had Hollywood stars going there for £200? He's six-foot five. He's beautifully black. And he's Othello."[5]

After setting up the run of Othello in London, Rutter was invited to direct Richard III for the 'Vanemuine' Theatre Company in Tartu, Estonia. Though he suffered a heart attack, he completed the rehearsals for the first night at the Samadateater in Tartu on 17 October 2009. In the third quarter of 2010, Rutter also became a patron for the newly opened ALRA North.[citation needed]

In June 2016 Rutter was the subject of BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. His eight musical choices were works by Frank Sinatra, Kay Starr, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, César Franck, Eliza Carthy with Norma Waterson, Tina Turner and The Band. Tina Turner's Proud Mary was his track to "rescue from the waves". He declined to take The Bible but accepted the complete works of Shakespeare; his chosen book was a collection of Tony Harrison's poems and his luxury a pair of swimming flippers so that "at the first sign of madness" he could swim out to sea and battle with a shark. In the programme he discussed his childhood and family and professional life, including the loss of a son by cot death at 14 weeks.[6]

In July 2017 Rutter announced that he would step down from the post of artistic director in April 2018 after frustration at what he saw as inadequate Arts Council funding for the company.[7]

His final production with the company was The Captive Queen, an adaptation of John Dryden's Aureng-zebe, at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in February and March 2018; as well as directing, he played the part of the emperor.[8][9]

Rutter's former wife Carol Rutter is professor of English at the University of Warwick and director of the CAPITAL Centre. They have two daughters.[citation needed]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 2000 he won the title 'Creative Briton 2000', with a cheque for £100,000.[10] He was nominated for it by, amongst others, John Prescott, then Deputy Prime Minister, who said "Barrie's northern accent, fast action, factory floor Shakespeare is as far from elitism as can be, though it has never, never dumbed Shakespeare down."[11] In 2003 he received the Sam Wanamaker Award jointly with Stephen Unwin for their work promoting Shakespeare in the regions.[12] In 2005 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Bradford,[13] and in 2018 the same degree from Lancaster University.[14]

Rutter was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to drama.[15][16]


  1. ^ Barrie Rutter (2016), Theatre Programme: The Merry Wives, Northern Broadsides and New Vic Theatre joint production.
  2. ^ "About us – Barrie". Northern Broadsides. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  3. ^ "Barrie Rutter at IMDB". IMDB. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  4. ^ "Lenny just a jealous guy... and it's no joke". Yorkshire Evening Post. 10 April 2008. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
  5. ^ Brown, Mark (10 February 2008). "A new Moor for West Yorkshire". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  6. ^ "Barrie Rutter". Desert Island Discs. BBC iPlayer. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  7. ^ Wiegand, Chris (20 July 2017). "Barrie Rutter resigns from Northern Broadsides due to stagnant funding". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  8. ^ Billington, Michael (8 February 2018). "The Captive Queen review – Rutter bows out with rhyming couplets and marital spats". The Guardian.
  9. ^ "The Captive Queen". Shakespeare's Globe. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Theatre pioneer receives welcome broadside". BBC News. 29 June 2000. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  11. ^ "Top prize for 'factory floor Shakespeare'". BBC News. 28 July 2000. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  12. ^ "The Sam Wanamaker Award". Shakespeare's Globe. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2008.
  13. ^ "Honorary Graduations at the University of Bradford – July 2005". University of Bradford. 2005. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  14. ^ "Honorary Graduates". Lancaster University. 2018. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  15. ^ "No. 61092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N14.
  16. ^ 2015 New Year Honours List

External links[edit]