We found this gem via Rainbow Rowell’s Tumblr: A photo from a 1976 production of Sherlock Holmes at the Birminghan Repertory Theatre in Birmingham, England. And who is that young, acerbic detective? Why, a 30-year-old Alan Rickman before he was famous.
Click to enlarge the photo, which shows Rickman clearly deducing something very important. His performance was mostly well-received, with the Sunday Mercury (via Rickman’s unauthorized biography) falling all over themselves to identify this rising star:
Holmes is played with superb coolness and languid authority by Alan Rickman in a performance which interweaves touches of melodrama with masterpieces of understatement in such an absorbing and funny fashion that it dazzles the audience. Others on stage therefore look grey and we have the odd phenomenon of a one-man show with a cast of more than 20.
Benedict Cumberbatch, eat your heart out. It’s only fitting that we discovered this, after Cumberbatch kind of killed with his Severus Snape impression on The Simpsons.
The 1976 play came two years before Rickman’s first movie role, playing Tybalt in the TV movie Romeo & Juliet. The Birmingham Rep’s archive doesn’t even mention the production by name, commenting only that Rickman’s performance “provided some success” to the theater.
You know what else we found in our time travels? A Russian fansite with a clipping from a 1994 issue of Doctor Who Magazine, which ponders whether Rickman could be a new, rebooted Doctor. Now, imagine that.
Photo: Birmingham Rep via Sherlock Holmes Fandom