David Suchet in Poirot and More, A Retrospective. Credit Ash Koek.

The Interview: David Suchet

The Interview: David Suchet

As he looks back on his life for his retrospective show, the actor tells us about playing Poirot, his other stand-out roles, and what he loves about living near the Thames…

Sir David Suchet is best known for bringing to life Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot but he has done so much more. With his retrospective, fittingly named ‘Poirot and More’, which is touring across the UK, he will delve into the role he played for over 25 years as well as the many other characters he has portrayed over the decades.

David has toured with the show before and it has had a run in the West End. More dates have been added so what is the secret of its success? David is modest. “I wish I could answer that. What I do know is that when I come onto stage I am confronted by an audience who seem very happy to be there. When I share my early life, my family life, my development as a student into acting and tell stories about my experiences they seem to really warm to that.”

He also does a demonstration of Shakespeare’s verse and speeches. He spent 13 years with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company. “I use the language of Shakespeare in most of my characters, including Poirot.”

His roles have spanned everything from Salieri in Amadeus to playing opposite Dame Diana Rigg in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in the West End, even transforming into Lady Bracknell in The Importance of being Earnest. I ask him who have been his favourite characters to play…

“Of course, Poirot has to be number one because of the world’s reaction to him, for which I am truly grateful. But other than that, George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf; Joe Keller in All My Sons and Gregory Solomon in The Price. They stand out as great highlights.

“They are all complex characters and that appeals to me as a character actor. I have never been interested in showing me, David Suchet, I am not a personality actor. I disappear and change myself to become these people.”

That change into Poirot was helped enormously by the famous twirly moustache that he donned for the role. “When I was preparing for Poirot in the early days, it took months to develop the character that I read in Agatha Christie’s books. I wanted to be her Hercule Poirot. But when it came to actually filming, putting on the moustache was the catalyst that would immediately send me into that ‘little man’. I would suddenly be speaking and thinking like him.”

Over the years that David played Poirot, how did he feel about the character? “I had enormous empathy for him. This little man is not just a detective but a great moral compass and a comfort to people. He can be acerbic but he has a big heart and kind nature. And I never got fed up of playing him even though it was over 25 years.”

Originally, David was only contracted to do 10 short stories initially. He didn’t realise when he took on the role that he’d be playing him for all those years.

Clearly, he was a popular choice as Agatha Christie’s much-loved character. David says this is down to bringing Poirot to life as Agatha saw him. “Her readership around the world had seen wonderful actors in this iconic role but they brought their own particular style to it and made the character their own. I determined that every single detail would be as she wrote it, even down to the costumes.”

David gives away little when asked what he thinks of other actors who have played the role. “I enjoy watching other actors play the roles I’ve played. It is always interesting to see their take on it.”

Filming Poirot took him all over the world. His highlights? “It was hard work on set but the locations we went to were incredible, including travelling down the Nile and filming on the Orient Express.”

His career has spanned five decades. It’s quite something to look back upon for his retrospective, and he’s loving bringing it to regional theatres where his career began. “I’ve always been a touring actor. I never believed London is the Mecca of theatre. I started my career in the provinces. My first West End show was in 1987 and I’d been acting since 1969!”

London though is his home. He was born here (his mother was an actor, his father a physician). David joined the National Youth Theatre and trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

He’s very much looking forward to coming to the Rose. It is one of his local theatres – he lives near to Richmond. “We have the Rose, the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond Theatre. It is a very artistic area of London.”

David also loves the fact that this part of London is on the river. He is a big believer in restoring and protecting our waterways, and has long been a member of the River Thames Society. “The rivers and the canals are the brightest jewels in the crown of our British heritage.” He adds that his perfect day off is to take his boat out and cruise along the river.

And professionally, any ambitions left to fulfil? “Although I may look forward to doing things, I live a day at a time and try to make the most of each day. I have been given so many wonderful parts so I’m not looking to play any particular role. I’m still an actor for hire!”

Rose Theatre, Kingston 26 and 27 February 2024

And touring

Top image: Ash Koek