You could without too much difficulty, think you see a link between the
roles Alan Rickman has been playing with the RSC: Jaques in As You Like
It, Achilles in Troilus and Cressida, and the Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses in this, his second spell with the Company.|
But it's not a connection Alan would thank you for tracing. "It's the actor's old, old plea--don't fence me in! There are qualities of the sick, the selfish, the manipulator or the looker-on in all those parts but their minds extend in wildly different areas and they each have a particular vulnerability that has to be found."
Though Jaques is the role Alan has been playing longest, the period of discovery in it is by no means over yet. As You Like It is "a production in which there is still a sense of growth. I feel very protective towards it." Since we spoke, the play has opened at the Barbican with the critics almost unanimous in acclaiming the improvements in the production. The somewhat mixed reviews the production got for the Stratford opening were fair , he feels -- but he was delighted to see how strong an appeal it made to the teenagers who were "yanked" to Stratford to see it as a school set text. "It's a great pleasure to know their eyes have widened--that they've got some real joy out of it."
What audienced get out of Les Liaisons Dangereuses is something rather different. "The audience should feel like voyeurs. Their response is absolutely crucial." It has certainly been enthusiastic. Alan's character, Valmont, is the seducer who can face any sexual challenge except love. He operates through a great web of truth and lies and, in the end, says Alan, "the play is as seductive as any of its characters".
Howard Davies is director of Liaisons and also of Alan's third role: Achilles in Troilus and Cressida. "When he asked me to do the part he said, 'Achilles should be like a movie star lying by the swimming pool, flinging the scripts back at MGM'. That made me laugh but in rehearsal I found Achilles a rather different person."
Jaques, he says, has "a lot more muscle and passion to the part than people expect." Achilles, by contrast, is "an emotional and intellectual shell. You're constantly told how great he is, what a hero--and then when he finally does fight he calls in his thugs to murder his opponent. But that's not just cowardice. In this case it's mental illness. The text is very spare so you're on a tightrope every time you do it."
One of the definite plusses of the Stratford season for Alan was the chance, in the RSC W H Smith Festival, The Fortnight, to direct a production of Barnes' People by Peter Barnes. "I owe him a great deal. My first major part was in his adaptation of Jonson's The Devil is an Ass and I've worked with him four or five times since."
Alan has never been able to plan his career, he says. But one thing he was determined on. Despite offers of other TV parts after the success of Barchester Chronicles, he wanted to get back to live stage. "I had been away for about 18 months and when I went into Bad Language (a Dusty Hughes play at Hampstead) I was pretty frightened. Your muscles go slack. All the physical sensations said, 'Don't ever leave it this long again'."
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