David Suchet – Poirot and More: A Retrospective – Review – York Theatre Royal
By Karl Hornsey, October 2021
At the age of 75, David Suchet easily slips into the category of national treasure, having enjoyed a glittering career on stage and screen and, of course, created the definitive characterisation of Agatha Christie’s singular detective creation Hercule Poirot. As Suchet himself admits, it’s his portrayal of Poirot that puts bums on seats for this retrospective look back at his life and career, in the company of his friend, writer and producer Geoffrey Wansell. Running at a little over two hours, there’s certainly plenty to digest from their conversations and Suchet immediately engages with his audience, lifting this from a standard scripted show to something that contains a little bit of everything.
It’s clear from the moment he walks on that Suchet belongs on the stage and feels so comfortable there, which is understandable given his lengthy stint at the Royal Shakespeare in Stratford and more than 50 years of treading the boards. This show is packed with amusing tales of as how his mother has been a constant source of both support and embarrassment throughout his career, and those members of the general public who remain convinced that Poirot is a real-life person, while Suchet is also honest enough about those pieces of his filmography of which is less proud.
Wansell nudges Suchet along, prompting him during the first half to reveal how he chose to go into acting, and Suchet takes several opportunities to get out of his armchair and onto the stage to help bring his stories to life. He proves to be a natural raconteur and the half ends as they touch, albeit briefly, on how he came to be given the part that would come to define his life and career. As a huge fan of both the Poirot novels and TV adaptations, I’d happily have listened to a whole two hours about the show, his fellow actors, and how playing the part developed over 25 years, but that of course misses the point. This is ‘Poirot and More’, although I’d have loved a little more of Poirot.
The second half begins with Suchet giving a speech by his character of Salieri from the stage adaptation of Amadeus, which sets the scene for what effectively becomes an acting masterclass. Wansell departs to leave Suchet to go through his repertoire of speeches from half a dozen Shakespearean plays, demonstrating his love for the language and how an actor can get that across to the audience by understanding Shakespeare’s ‘traffic light system’. It’s certainly a novel idea that makes this retrospective stand out from a standard interview, and one that helps to emphasise how Suchet takes his art seriously, but with the overriding intention of ‘serving his writer’.