BARRIE Rutter is in a meeting but he’s happy to break off and chat about his latest project.
Or should that be projects? For as ever, the founder and artistic director of the award-winning theatre company Northern Broadsides, is juggling the kind of workload many would have nightmares about.
But not Barrie Rutter. He’s currently directing and appearing in a brand new piece, We Are Three Sisters by the writer Blake Morrison.
And when I interrupt his meeting, I discover it’s with the designer of the next Broadsides’ venture, a 20th anniversary season production of Shakespeare’s comedy, Love’s Labour’s Lost, scheduled to open in 2012.
But back to the present where Barrie is currently on tour with the Broadsides’ company with a new play which at the outset must have seemed an extraordinary proposition, even for a company which is renowned for its innovative productions.
Barrie Rutter and Blake Morrison are old friends and have collaborated on five previous projects for Northern Broadsides.
This one must have constituted quite a challenge even for them.
For what Blake Morrison has done is shed light on the lives of the Bronte sisters through the text of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s play, Three Sisters.
It is not quite the left field idea it might at first seem. After all, Chekhov wrote about three sisters and their brother living in a remote part of Russia and the Brontes were three sisters and their brother who lived in a bleak, exposed part of Yorkshire.
One admittedly is fiction, the other the real lives of a group of women who have become iconic figures.
But the use of one story to shed light on the other has created a remarkable new theatre piece, one that arrives in Huddersfield next week.
“It’s taken me by surprise in terms of the absolute praise its had across the board,” said Barrie Rutter.
And he means from the outset when members of the Bronte Society sat in on the first read through of We Are Three Sisters, held in the parsonage in Haworth where the 19th Century novelists lived, to the play’s reception by both audiences and critics.
The play premiered at the company’s home at the Viaduct Theatre at Dean Clough in Halifax in September and is now on a national tour. It is at the Lawrence Batley Theatre from November 2-5.
“It’s been terrific so far,” said Barrie. “One review said this play had been waiting to be written for a long time.”
Barrie is an eloquent admirer of three women who despite the isolation of their surroundings led remarkable lives.
“They were superbly well educated by their father but they knew they had to work because the house belonged to the church.
“They were independent and the early suffragette was in them. My knowledge of them has been increased.
“It’s very funny this play as well. It has good ironic humour. I think people won’t expect that.
“Mrs Gaskell (an early biographer of Charlotte Bronte) did a dis-service to them. Her biography is all doom and gloom. It’s to that we owe a lot of the misconceptions about the girls and the times in which they lived,” said Barrie.
In this new Broadsides’ production, the sisters are played by actresses Catherine Kinsella, Sophia di Martino and Rebecca Hutchinson.
And according to Barrie, all three are beautifully cast.
The are, perhaps, the perfect sister act indeed.