But this is Poirot and More, and Suchet has had a rich and varied career before and after playing Agatha Christie’s famed creation. Interviewer Jane Hutcheon deftly delves into the early Suchet years, from his first dramatic role at the age of eight when he played an oyster, to his bumpy start to acting life upon being accepted into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
From these shaky beginnings, to character roles and then 13 years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Suchet has run the gamut of challenging portrayals, including Shylock, Caliban, Sigmund Freud, Salvador Dali, Robert Maxwell, Antonio Salieri (right) and Lady Bracknell.
However, his portrayal of Blott in the darkly satirical Blott on the Landscape, as well as his appearance as Inspector Japp in the Peter Ustinov-era Thirteen at Dinner, landed him his most iconic role. At this point, Poirot’s distinctive cane comes out, and accent and mannerisms are employed to full effect. But more of that later.
The second half begins in dramatic fashion as Suchet dives more deeply into the technique of acting, discussing Shakespeare’s “highway code” in between brilliant portrayals of Salieri, Oberon, Shylock, and his more recent role as Cardinal Benelli in The Last Confession by way of illustration.
What’s most impressive about Poirot and More is how thoroughly enjoyable it is.
It’s a testament to Suchet’s skills that he can engage with his audience so amiably for more than two hours. Jane Hutcheon, too, deserves credit as a skilled interviewer. She is able to gently prod her subject in a certain direction, while never inserting herself too obtrusively. It’s clear both enjoy the interaction – Hutcheon will ask a leading question, as Suchet jumps up with visible glee to act out a little vignette.
But back to Poirot – after 25 years in the role, there really is no escaping him. Suchet has already given us some insights into how he shaped the self-proclaimed world’s greatest detective (copious lists are involved), but to nail the true Poirot of the books, he had to master three things – the moustache (which has a poem of its own), the “walk”, which employed the use of an old penny “between the cheeks”, and the voice, which comes not from the gut or the chest but is the voice of a man who was “a walking brain”.
Such fondness emanates from Suchet for his character, his companion, his friend. When asked whether he misses him, Suchet tearfully describes the easy familiarity of placing his hand on the cane, and no more words are necessary. We miss Poirot too.