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Time Out's former theatre editor remembers Alan Rickman

Andrzej Lukowski


Among the tributes to the late, great Alan Rickman who passed away this week at the age of 69 there's been a lot of focus on his film work. But before his big break with 'Die Hard', he was a fixture of the London stage, a major theatre draw who became a proper star with Christopher Hampton's stage hit 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses'. Here Jane Edwardes, Time Out's theatre editor in the '80s and '90s remembers her Alan Rickman.

'No doubt, most people knew Alan Rickman as a film actor, as Snape in the Harry Potter movies, or as Emma Thompson’s husband in "Love Actually". But I will always remember him for his contribution to the energy of theatres like the Bush and the Royal Court in the ’80s. Later, he joined the RSC, where he was part of a fantastic generation of performers, including Fiona Shaw and Juliet Stevenson. In 1986, I interviewed him just before he was about to play a very different kind of actor, the deeply compromised Hendrick Hofgen in "Mephisto", before taking "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" into the West End.

With all due respect to John Malkovich and Dominic West, they could never obliterate the memory of Rickman’s louche languour as the Vicomte de Valmont, in monstrous partnership with Lindsay Duncan’s Marquise de Merteuil. He was able to convey so much with the lift of an eyebrow. Typically, he played the part on the back foot, with a voice so low that one had to sit forward to hear, in the process becoming part of their evil conspiracy. "I knew that I had to seduce 200 people in the audience as well as the women in the play," he told me.

Even then, he spoke about the production as a whole, not just his role in it, and it is hardly surprising that he moved into direction later. Famous for his generosity to other actors, he always seemed like a reluctant actor himself, who had to be coaxed onto the stage. Other major roles followed, including a rather elderly Hamlet and Elyot in "Private Lives", but it was as Valmont that he first showed us just how charismatic he could be.'

Harry Potter fans have left tributes for Alan Rickman at Platform 9 3/4

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