My Suffolk - Ivan Cutting

Ivan Cutting is the artistic director and founder of the much-lauded Eastern Angles, a rural touring theatre company. He spoke to Anne Gould about his Suffolk

Are you a Suffolk born and bred?

I was born on the Shotley Peninsula, went to school in Ipswich and apart from going away to Bristol Univeristy have lived in Suffolk all my life, although actually now I live just over the border in Harleston. In fact I don’t know anyone from my family who doesn’t live in Suffolk, so I have led a bit of a breakout – although of course I do work in Suffolk. I tend to think of myself as an East Anglian and try not to gloat when Norwich lose.

Are you an Ipswich Town fan?

I used to support football, when I was a kid I was taken to the First Division Champions parade through the town (Ipswich). After that I started going to the football for a number of years and went to all the FA Cup semi finals. The year we won the final I couldn’t be there because I was away at university and after that I felt disillusioned and didn’t go back.

What makes Suffolk a special place?  

It’s a slow burner – it’s not somewhere that you go “Wow look at that.” I like to go to Wales and love the hills there but in Suffolk it’s different. It’s the skies, I enjoy the clouds and the moments when the sun breaks through and the light hits the ground. I also like it that there are lots of different regions within Suffolk from the coast to High Suffolk and then down towards Essex. So many of the actors who come to us arrive here and say they don’t know where they are and then they fall in love with it. The variety of the scenery is enormous, that’s one thing I like very much, the other thing is it’s hidden, it’s mysterious, it’s under the ground. Sutton Hoo is the perfect emblem – it’s not like something like Stonehenge which is showy – instead it’s a hidden mystery.

Where do you like to walk?

The Waveney Valley is a very beautiful place and so is the coast. I used to walk a lot with my wife but then we had kids and they don’t like to walk but now they are getting older I’ll be doing some more. I did go on a walk from Lowestoft to Southwold, following in the steps of W.G. Sebald in Rings of Saturn. It’s an odd book, quite intellectual and it marks our territory a bit.

Do you like to eat out?

We never eat out. I’d rather spend my money on a concert or theatre. Besides, we are inveterate picnickers – and take sandwiches wherever we go. We pack a little stove and my wife cooks sausages on the beach.

Have you got a favourite pub?

The Greyhound in Ipswich – that’s where our actors go I’ve been going there since I was 15.

Adnams or Greene King?

I think it would have to be Adnams, if only for the Broadside and the Old. I like the idea of seasonal foods and drinks – so with the Old it’s only there for part of the year.

Where would you show visitors who’d never been to Suffolk before?

Blythburgh, Southwold and Snape and, most certainly, Sutton Hoo. I am also fascinated by our coast, the sea and the estuaries especially as we do not have big rivers like they do elsewhere – the Thames, The Humber, The Severn. I suppose that’s because we live in one of the driest parts of the country and we don’t have the weather or the hills. We don’t even have a coast road. The A12 marks the clay on the west and the sandlings on the east. We know that it’s along these estuaries that the Anglo Saxons would have come and discovered Suffolk – and so many of our stories are connected with that.

Have you got a favourite place in the county?

When you are driving down the A140 towards Ipswich there is a place just past Earl Stonham. There is a big blank area that just opens up and a beautiful expanse of countryside opens up that I particularly like. I drive past it almost every day.

What about hobbies and interests?

I have played the guitar for years. We had an evening with Neil Innes at Sir John Mills Theatre where I was involved in a few numbers. I had to get my guitar out and dust it down. It was great fun I forgot how much I enjoyed playing in public. I’d like to do some more of that.

Does Suffolk inspire your work?

Yes Suffolk is so interesting because it was a meeting place of Christian and Norseman ideas. I’m actually looking at this in a new production called Ragnarok, the Doom of the Gods, which looks at the myths and stories that are in the bloodstream in this part of the country. In some respects we are very Christian area – after all we’ve built all these churches but we are still very connected to the Norse myth.