David Suchet, Poirot and More – A Retrospective (New Theatre Cardiff, 30th October 2021)

David Suchet certainly knows how to work a stage. From the moment he makes his first appearance it’s plain that he’s got the audience in the palm of his hand.

Wryly self-deprecating, he delights in recalling some of his youthful theatrical disasters (such as his debut at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where his dramatic entrance was somewhat spoiled after he tripped over and broke his sword!).

His friend Geoffrey Wansell (who co-wrote the book Poirot and Me with him) is on hand to guide him through the milestones of his career. The first half is roughly chronological, briefly touching upon Poirot but concentrating more on the roles that preceded him.

Suchet remains convinced that his earlier brush with Agatha Christie (playing Chief Inspector Japp opposite Peter Ustinov’s Poirot in the American TVM Thirteen at Dinner) was an absolute disaster, but I feel he’s being far too harsh on himself there. It’s an interesting curio though, one which every Christie fan should track down.

A famously analytical actor, at one point he provides a fascinating insight into the way he thought himself into characters like Sigmund Freud, Salvador Dali and Robert Maxwell.

A decent chunk of the second half is taken up with a Shakespeare masterclass. Easily the highlight of the afternoon for me, Suchet delivers a series of monologues from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice. Along he way he stops to analyse each one – his comments on Shylock (a character who’s been problematic for many decades) are especially insightful.

We close, as you’d expect, with Poirot. David Suchet is quick to acknowledge the debt he owes to that funny little Belgian – commenting that without him he probably wouldn’t have been offered many of the plum stage roles that have come his way over the last thirty years (and also that he wouldn’t have been able to pull together much of an audience for this talk!)

There’s not a great deal of time for him to go into specifics about episodes, etc. Instead he takes us step by step through the way he assembled the character – from poring through Christie’s original stories, to finding the walk (using an old Laurence Olivier trick) and then the voice. It’s a magical end to a thoroughly enjoyable theatrical treat.

Poirot and More continues to tour the UK until the end of the year and will be playing a limited run at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London next January. If it turns up anywhere near you then I can heartily recommend it.

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