Poirot - The End of an Era

POIROT AND ME by David Suchet

To coincide with the final episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot award-winning actor David Suchet has penned a loving tribute to the character he has portrayed for the last twenty-five years.

‘Poirot and Me’ is a revealing insight into the character, the man who plays him, and his interpretation of one of the most famous fictional detectives in the world.

Dame Agatha Christie wrote 33 novels featuring the fastidious Belgian, more than 50 short stories and one stage play, ‘Black Coffee’ which was later novelised. David Suchet has made 70 episodes over a quarter of a century making him the second longest running actor to play a TV detective (the first being Peter Falk's Columbo).

David Suchet is a font of knowledge and fills the book with details of all seventy episodes. He praises the excellent supporting cast, the litany of international actors wanting to be a part of Poirot's world, the writers and directors and Dame Agatha Christie herself. There are quotes from the critics, not just about the television films but from the time the books were originally published.

Suchet has included many stories from his experience of playing the great detective with the ‘little grey cells’, including a time he stepped away from filming and, while in full costume, encountered a woman who wondered what Poirot was doing in Hastings and worried there had been a murder. Suchet and his wife were invited to have dinner with the Queen and Prince Philip where he found out the late Queen Mother was a big fan of the drama and he was given a lesson on how to cut up a mango from the Queen’s husband. The book is a delight from start to finish and reads like one is in conversation with Mr. Suchet.

It is a known fact among fans that Dame Agatha tired of Poirot and she wrote the sublime character of Ariadne Oliver (a fictional version of herself) to use as a mouthpiece to express her angst over her creation. The final story, ‘Curtain’, in which Poirot dies, was written in 1940 but not published until 1975. She wrote it in case she did not survive the war and her fans would have a finale for the small stout Belgian they had grown to love. Dame Agatha's publishers, however, refused to print ‘Curtain’ until a few months before her own death when her health was in decline and they felt she did not have another book in her.

‘Poirot and Me’ is written from the heart as Suchet takes us through his career and uncertainty over whether he would achieve his dream of filming all of Dame Agatha's stories. ITV never kept him in the loop as to whether a new series would be commissioned so often Suchet would be as much in the dark as the worldwide audience itching for more.

David Suchet is a character actor and to achieve a realistic portrayal of every character he plays he needs to know every nuance, almost turning himself into the character. At the end of the book Suchet has included his original list of ‘Poirotisms’ that he and the television adaptation must abide by in order to give gravitas to Hercule and the deepest of respect to Dame Agatha. There are 93 items on this list, the first being, of course, ‘Belgian, not French!’ a mistake many of Poirot’s antagonists make much to his deep-rooted annoyance.

A quote from the book which sticks out for me is the description Dame Agatha uses in one of her novels to give the reader a picture of who Poirot read is:

‘He was hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound.’

I think David Suchet can safely say he has made that quote his mantra. He lived and breathed Hercule Poirot for twenty-five years making the character come alive for an audience spanning the globe. At one point it was the only English-language programme allowed on East German television before the fall of the Berlin Wall. His popularity is worldwide and Christie’s books, alongside Suchet’s encapsulating performance, will live on for generations to come.

Written by: Michael Wood


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