I loved working with the late Alan Rickman, says Eastern Angles actress Mabel Clements

Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman in the film A Little Chaos

Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman in the film A Little Chaos - Credit: Archant

The acting world and fans were shocked by acclaimed actor Alan Rickman’s death. Actress Mabel Clements, who recently appeared at Ipswich’s Sir John Mills Theatre and Woodbridge’s Seckford Theatre, shared her memories of working with him with entertainment writer Wayne Savage.

Actress Mabel Clements, who did voiceover work for the film

Actress Mabel Clements, who did voiceover work for the film - Credit: Archant

It’s unusual to see a film’s director when you’re stuck in the studio doing voiceover work. With a million and one things on their plate they may pop in for an hour before leaving you in the hands of the sound recording team. Not Rickman, remembers Clements.

The award-winning film and stage actor, best known as Severus Snape, the Sheriff of Nottingham or Hans Gruber depending how old you are, died earlier this month after a short battle with cancer aged 69.

Recently appearing in Eastern Angles and Shanty Theatre’s Holy Mackerel - a wacky alternative Christmas show about warring fishermen - she recorded dialogue for the 2014 movie A Little Chaos which he directed and co-starred in.

The period drama - the last of his films to be released in his lifetime - was about two landscapers tasked with breathing new life into the neatly ordered gardens at the palace of Versailles, in France, and saw him reunited with Kate Winslet; who Rickman had last worked with on Sense and Sensibility two decades earlier.

Alan Rickman, who died earlier this year

Alan Rickman, who died earlier this year - Credit: PA


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“He was really, really lovely and incredibly humble,” says Clements. “He stayed in the whole session.”

The scene involved the assembled actors playing different members of the gardening team who were being ordered about by Titanic star Winslet. Giving them a tiny couple of sentences on what atmosphere he wanted created, Rickman watched them work.

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“He showed a clip of the scene and said ‘okay, we’ll just do it’. Making sure we didn’t use any colloquial terms, ‘oh God’s’ or anything that wouldn’t fit the period, we had to improvise mini-scenes of people talking... I remember after one of the takes he just went ‘God, I didn’t really have to tell you anything there’.

“He was so incredibly complimentary, which is so rare for a director when they’ve got so many other things to be getting on with. He just said ‘it was the exact atmosphere I wanted... I didn’t have to give you any direction or dialogue or an example of what I wanted you to say you just gave it to me exactly as I needed it so thank you’.”

It was certainly different to Clements’ recent experience of working on the forthcoming movie Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, where she was on her cans - headphones to you and me - being directed live over the phone from America.

“The incredible the thing I noticed most about him (Rickman) was he had time for you. Quite a lot of the time when you’ve got a really high up director everything’s very quick, everything’s very to the point, there’s no messing around. Sometimes in the director is so busy you don’t seem them at all.

“He felt like he was there, we were all just having fun recording stuff. There was no rush, if you wanted any further explanation he was happy to give it. He was just very generous with his time which felt really lovely in that sort of circumstance, where you’ve got people being paid quite large sums of money and you’ve only got limited studio time. He was just incredibly relaxed considering he was the director and probably had a million and one things to do and watching himself back...”

It was the second occassion she’d worked with Rickman, albeit indirectly the first time; providing voiceovers for several of the Harry Potter films when she was a teenager.

“(It happens) when a couple of lines haven’t worked with a character or there was a technical fault while they were recording it and they either can’t afford to get that actor back in again for an afternoon because of how expensive it is or they’re busy... I did a couple of lines for Emma Watson (who played Hermione Granger), small bits for Clémence Poésy (who played Fleur Delacour), bits for Katie Leung (who played Cho Chang)...”

“I can’t really remember half of what I said but when I watch them I can suddenly hear my voice and its quite funny, quite surreal.”

Clements was a fan of Rickman long before working with him.

“I was shocked when I heard he’d died. He was a fantastic actor, absolutely brilliant. Did you see that tortoise video (a 30-second short raising money for the refugee crisis, which he leant his voice to; released just weeks before his death)?

“He’s so charismatic, so intelligent and his wit is so dry. He’s just great, there’s never a dull moment with him on camera. There’s always something where, even if his part isn’t the most dramatic part, there’s always something bubbling under the surface which keeps you really interested in the way that he plays it so.”

Holy Mackerel, Eastern Angles’ wacky alternative Christmas show about warring fishermen, ends its run at Seckford Theatre today.

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