wed 17/08/2022

David Suchet - Poirot And More, A Retrospective, Harold Pinter Theatre review - the much-loved actor looks back | reviews, news & interviews

David Suchet - Poirot And More, A Retrospective, Harold Pinter Theatre review - the much-loved actor looks back

David Suchet - Poirot And More, A Retrospective, Harold Pinter Theatre review - the much-loved actor looks back

Sir David Suchet takes us from school days to sleuth days

Nightly chat: Sir David Suchet looks backAsh Koek

In the 80s, An Audience With... gave a television studio to an actor who then recounted stories culled from a life in entertainment. The best subjects were the natural raconteurs with plenty to say - Billy Connolly, Barry Humphries, the incomparable Kenneth Williams - and it's a testament to the format's longevity that Adele did one as recently as November.

With a few crucial differences, David Suchet - Poirot And More, A Retrospective captures the warmth and easy pleasures of that much-loved format.

Two chairs, placed the required two metres apart on stage, set the tone for the evening: they look comfortable and more likely to have a couple of gin and tonics on the little table between them than the carafe of water and glasses. We understand that it's not going to be too taxing couple of hours or so for us, nor, after 30 years of friendship, a co-authored book and a nationwide tour to hone the anecdotes, for our genial host Geoffrey Wansell and our star, Sir David Suchet (pictured below).

Soon we're sauntering off down Memory Lane, the hat very much tipped to the side of the head, all things for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Apparently repeatedly confounded by his continual good fortune, Suchet is soon fluking his way into drama school, the somewhat naive teenager turning up for his first day in an old school tie when everyone else was in tie-dye. He went on to make the most of the opportunities afforded to an understudy at the RSC, inheriting not one but two leads in his first season and marrying the woman who has been his wife for nearly 50 years. 

More luck also attends his securing of his signature role - TV's Hercule Poirot - on the recommendation of Agatha Christie's family, but then the hard work that always underpins such tales of serendipitous success soon emerges, as Suchet examines the craft of acting. He reveals the copious notes that helped him reposition Poirot as a man to be "smiled with" and not "laughed at", and explains his detailed work on the walk and the voice. It's all very English, very practical and very pragmatic - quite what the European tradition of literary theory or the more radical British theatremakers would make of such middlebrow approaches to the art I shudder to think. His "Highway Code" for acting Shakespeare obviously works for him, but it feels a little reductive and its extended explanation veers too close to patronising his audience.

But his work has always connected with people, many of whom really believe in Poirot, as a couple of anecdotes underlining the old joke that the only three famous living Belgians are Eddy Merckx, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Hercule Poirot illustrates. And he connects on stage too, a much younger house than I expected hanging on his every word, lapping up the tales. All this is notwithstanding the speeches from The Merchant of Venice and The Tempest and photographs from productions now two generations in the past.

Despite coming in at 150 minutes, the show disappointingly allows no time for questions from the audience, which could perhaps have been written on paper and dropped in a box at the interval in these Covid times so as to reveal a few more bumps in the road and provide a little contrast. We might also have learned something about those with whom he did not get on so famously, as there's not a bad word for anyone, the only deprecation very much directed towards himself.

Ultimately, Suchet does in this (almost) one man show, what he has done all his life - broker professionalism, talent and charm into a successful performance that pleases a public that gets exactly what it wants. And if that was so easy to do, well, more would do it.      

 

 

         

Suchet does what he has done all his life - broker professionalism, talent and charm into a successful performance

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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