Carol Chillington Rutter has had the great good fortune to spend her entire working life in conversation with Shakespeare and his contemporaries. She's Professor of Shakespeare and Performance Studies at the University of Warwick where, for five years (2006-2011), she also directed the CAPITAL Centre, a Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning, that, in collaboration with theatre practitioners at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Cheek by Jowl, developed innovative workshop-based teaching practices for undergraduates. Her 'Shakespeare Without Chairs' module is now embedded in the curriculum and serves as a model for open space teaching across the University. She was elected a National Teaching Fellow in 2010. As a Shakespearean she has specialised in performance studies, and according to one reviewer,
there is no better interpreter of performance writing today.
Clamorous Voices: Shakespeare's Women Today (1987) was ground-breaking in giving women actors space to talk about their work with Shakespeare, a book, said one reviewer, that 'captured a generation'. In books like Enter the Body: Women and Representation on Shakespeare’s Stage (2001) and Shakespeare and Child’s Play: Performing Lost Boys on Stage and Screen (2007) Rutter has written about Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, The Winter's Tale, Antony and Cleopatra, Troilus and Cressida and Titus Andronicus. She's interested in how these plays played on Shakespeare's stage, so she's interested in thinking about the contexts of early modern performance, in recovering performance practices, in reading historically. She's passionately interested in early modern language – in thinking about words, about speech and speech practices, particularly theatre speaking. But if she’s interested in the past and past performance, she's just as much interested in seeing what our own actors and directors and designers and technicians continue to make of Shakespeare's scripts today, both on stage and on screen. She's an avid theatre-goer who looks eagerly to the next Hamlet or Comedy of Errors, seeing Shakespeare as a playwright who's always in the business of writing new plays for new audiences. Along with being a specialist in performance studies, Rutter is a historian of the early modern theatre. In Documents of the Rose Playhouse (1984, 1999) she used manuscript sources to write the biography of a theatre. (This ‘biographical turn’ has recently been turned to further ‘life writing’, in her extended account of ‘Peggy Ashcroft’ for Great Shakespeareans .) She has written on topics from decapitation on the early modern stage ('Talking Heads' in Stuart Hampton-Reeves and Bridget Escolme, Making Shakespeare, 2012) to early modern pedagogy ('Shakespeare at School' in Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, 2013), and she contributes the annual review of Shakespeare performed in England and Wales to Shakespeare Survey. Rutter is a frequent contributor to arts programmes, most recently BBC Radio 4's 'Who was Rosalind?' and ITV's 'The World's Oldest Joke', with Michael Grade. Her practical research work appears digitally as 'Unpinning Desdemona: The Movie'
Whenever asked, she makes herself useful to actors and directors at the RSC, Theatr Clwyd, Cheek by Jowl, Propeller and Northern Broadsides. Her current research project takes her to Venice to research the life and diplomatic activities of a highly theatrical Elizabethan, Henry Wotton, appointed ambassador to the Venetian Republic by James I in 1604.
What she knows about King Lear she has mostly learned in the theatre, from productions across thirty years directed by Trevor Nunn, Adrian Noble, Nicholas Hytner, Richard Eyre, Deborah Warner, Barrie Rutter, David Farr, Andrew Hilton, and Richard Attenborough, with Lears played by Donald Sinden, Michael Gambon, Alan Howard, John Wood, Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Brian Cox, Barrie Rutter, John Shrapnel, and Jonathan Pryce, and on film, the great King Lears of Peter Brook/Paul Scofield; Grigori Kozintsev/Yuri Yarvet and Michael Elliott/Laurence Olivier. She has written about King Lear in Enter the Body (‘Body Parts or Parts for Bodies: Speculating on Cordelia’) and in James Ogden’s Lear from Study to Stage (‘Eel Pie and Ugly Sisters in King Lear’). She continues to think that Brook’s instruction to his actors in 1962 – that each of them should see the action from his or her own point of view; that no point of view is the ‘right’ one – is the best instruction also to readers of the play.