Stanley Wells

Why David Suchet makes the perfect Poirot

Meticulous in all things, Suchet has studied the detective’s foibles in detail — even down to his exacting requirements at breakfast

I can imagine a quiz question along the lines of ‘What do Shylock, Lady Bracknell, Sigmund Freud and Hercule Poirot have in common?’ The answer, of course, would be David Suchet, who has impersonated all these characters on stage or television during an acting career spanning half a century.

In Behind the Lens, Suchet offers a series of autobiographical sketches, written in an amiably informal style and covering many aspects of his professional and personal life. He writes of his Jewish ancestry, his childhood, his schooldays (during which he was caned for hiding a forbidden Mars Bar in one of his shoes) and his private passions — for canals, music, foreign travel and for his family, the last being ‘the most important thing in the world to me’. He writes of his professional ups and downs: during a long period of unemployment as an actor he worked as a salesman at Moss Bros in Covent Garden and was rescued from becoming a branch manager in Manchester only by an opportune phone call from his agent. And he writes movingly of his adoption of the Christian faith, reached in midlife after deep thought and serious study. He has recorded the whole of the Bible, and one of his less predictable triumphs was reading aloud in 2017 the whole of St Mark’s Gospel to a packed audience in St Paul’s Cathedral.

The cover of Behind the Lens features the photograph (right) of the author taking a photograph. Suchet’s grandfather was a distinguished press photographer, and Suchet himself takes a camera with him on all his travels. ‘The best way for you to get to know me,’ he writes, ‘is through my photography, because it’s how I see as well as what I see.’ He is, he writes, ‘a visual person’. ‘I am constantly observing.

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