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My Yorkshire: Barrie Rutter

Barrie Rutter, born in a two-up, two-down on Hessle Road in Hull in 1946, joined the National Youth Theatre and later the Royal Shakespeare Company. He founded the Halifax-based and internationally acclaimed Northern Broadsides theatre company in 1992 and is currently directing Lenny Henry in the title role of Shakespeare's Othello for the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.

What's your first Yorkshire memory?

Sweet rationing, and then the local shop stocking cinder toffee at long last – and running out almost immediately. And the belief that Yorkshire never lost to anyone else at cricket – until I was disillusioned at the age of seven.

What's your favourite part of the county – and why?

There are so many that I love. Malham Cove is probably the favourite, rambling over those limestone pavements, and the view is out of this world. But I like the coast, too. It's spectacular around Flamborough Head, but I also like the flatness of Withernsea, where we used to go when I was a kid. Nearly always by bus. We sometimes caught the train for a day out, and I could never work out why we went Third Class when all the engines and carriages had my initials on them. If the trains belonged to this BR, why were our lot in the carriages with no corridors where you couldn't go for a wee?

What's your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?

A breakfast of fruit and fibre, the paper and then the gym, watching Hull City resoundingly beat any other team, and then back home to cook something delicious. I love my cooking. And then on Sunday a ramble anywhere – there's amazing natural beauty to be found even in the darkest industrial architecture, I find. You feel the ghosts of people who have worked there in a deserted mill, foundry or factory.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

The view from a stage when the lights or a curtain go up – especially if the theatre is full of Yorkshire folk.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

Geoffrey Boycott, because he'd be such terrific value. He speaks his mind, and he's got a great sense of humour.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, or past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

My old mate Tom Courtenay, Sir Tom now. He lived just around the corner from me when I was growing up in Hull. Since I started acting, I've got to know him and we've become good friends, I'm happy to say. Sadly, I've never ever worked with him – but I'd love to.

If you had to name your Yorkshire 'hidden gem', what would it be?

Not a place, but an indomitable group of creative people like Alan Ayckbourn, John Godber, the team at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and all the audiences in the county who support live performances – they are the real gems of my life. Our lives.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

The fact that the people born here keep on shouting about it – and with every right. There are more acres in Yorkshire than there are words in the Bible. The fact that we have boundaries all around us – other counties and the sea – and that boundaries help you have a leap of the imagination.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?

I do – avidly, and with no particular allegiance to any one team or sport. As long as a Yorkshire team is doing well, that's a joy for me. I think my first sporting attendance was as a lad, watching Rugby League at the Boulevard in Hull.

What about Yorkshire's cultural life?

Where shall I start? It's robust, it is creative, it is imaginative, and it embraces so many forms. I love the audiences, because they keep on coming, and they all have enquiring minds. I love the way that you are allowed to do things in Yorkshire that you can't do elsewhere – when I first started acting I was told "with that broad accent Rutter,

you'll never play a king". So the first thing that I did when I started Northern Broadsides 18 years ago was to play a monarch. I thought: "There, that'll bloody teach you!"

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

Gimbels in Sowerby Bridge to eat, and The Big Six in Halifax as a pub. Why? Because it's a pub. It serves excellent ale, it has a garden when the weather is good, the people who run it are wonderful, and there's no TV, no music, no machines... precisely what a pub should be!

Do you have a favourite food shop?

The market at Halifax takes some beating. Fantastically fresh stuff, with people who know precisely where it all comes from. A cook's paradise. Give me a market every day.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you've known it?

It's changed for the worse, because I'm getting older. But you can't stop progress, and time, so... No, I think that it is a sadness that all the heavy industry has gone, but that's true of nearly all the UK, so we are not alone.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

Can I claim the Geordie-born, but Yorkshire domiciled for many years, shape of Alan Plater? That man takes some beating. A fantastic writer

and a great man. And on the female side, Amy Johnson, who was and

is a great heroine of mine. The sadness is that most kids of today

won't have a clue about who she was, or what she achieved.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

What do you think? It informs everything that I do, and everything that Northern Broadsides epitomises. As I said, give us a boundary, tell us something that we cannot or must not do, and I want to get over that boundary and prove people so very wrong. That's a bit of a Yorkshire trait, isn't it!

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.

The Waterson and Carthy families, with all their uniquely rumbustious creativity in the field of folk music. There's not one of them that

doesn't possess God-given talent in abundance. They have my admiration and my envy.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

Salts Mill or Dean Clough, both regenerated by remarkable and visionary people. What do I mean, "or"? That should be "and ". The Silver family had a dream, lived it and created it, and I thank them for it every day.

Othello runs from February 14 until March 14 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and then goes on a national tour of the UK. WYP box office 0113 213 7700, or book online at www.wyp.org.uk

 
 
 

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