Why actor Alan Rickman cherished his early days at Sheffield theatre

Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman
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He may have been famous worldwide as the enigmatic and threatening Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films or for upstaging Kevin Costner as a surprisingly dashing and witty Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

But in Sheffield Alan Rickman was regarded with a different kind of affection, and it was mutual.

His first proper acting job was a Crucible Theatre season in 1975 and he said many times later on that working with director Peter James, associate Rex Doyle and trainee Mel Smith gave him the best company feeling of his entire career.

Rickman, who has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 69, appeared in As You Like It delivering the “All the world’s a stage” speech with astonishing resonance as the melancholy Jaques, a couple of Stephen Poliakoff plays and as the dancer Nijinsky in a new play by Rex Doyle.

Last year he led the tributes at Doyle’s funeral service following his death at the age of 80.

When Crucible Youth Theatre members went to the National Theatre for a festival in 1994 they were amazed and delighted to be sought out by Rickman. He wished them luck and entertained them at the bar – all because they were from Sheffield.

And a year ago he left media interviews for his film A Little Chaos to attend the annual general meeting of a festival trust set up by the designer of that As You Like It, native Sheffielder Roger Glossop and his partner Charlotte Scott.

Famously generous away from the lights and cameras, his loyalties were lifelong.