David Suchet remembers early days of his career in Birmingham

It has been more than three years since actor David Suchet bid a fond farewell to Hercule Poirot but he still misses his ‘very best friend’.

David Suchet
David Suchet on stage in Birmingham at The Rep in 1977

When the final episode featuring Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective aired in 2013, it signalled the end of an era for the 70-year-old.

His 25 years spent playing one of the most famous fictional characters of all time drew to a close in dramatic fashion.

Poirot suffered a fatal heart attack after he was seen shooting a man in the head before signing a dramatic deathbed confession.

It’s a loss that is still felt now by Suchet, who, when asked what he misses the most about playing the detective, replied ‘our friendship’.

“I miss him still very much. He became my very best friend. Even now I feel I know him possibly better than anyone else – except my wife,” he adds.

The actor will be returning to our screens in Doctor Who when the new series gets under way on April 15.

Writers have remained tight-lipped about his mysterious character The Landlord, who will feature in an episode written by Doctor Foster scribe Mike Bartlett.

BAFTA-nominated Suchet didn’t need to think twice about accepting the part and said filming had been an ‘absolutely amazing’ experience.

“I was so excited to be invited to play a role in this iconic series. I said ‘yes’ immediately,” he added. It’s among several projects in the pipeline for the star, who says one role he would have loved to have played is Napoleon.

“I am about to play Salvador Dalí in a very short film which is centred around Dalí photographing the iconic star Alice Cooper. This is in order that a hologram of Alice Cooper could be made,” he explained.

The father-of-two, who is married to wife Sheila, is also a patron of Birmingham Repertory Theatre, which holds a special place in his heart.

“I first appeared at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in The Devil as an Ass in 1976. At that time we were living on our narrow boat which we managed to moor at Cambrian Wharf situated just behind the theatre.

“My dear friend Peter Farago was the associate artistic director. I felt very at home in Birmingham Rep and had a very, very happy time there and, if I may be allowed to say, a very successful time as well. My enduring memory will be playing Peter Farago’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata. This was a one-man show that I performed in the Studio Theatre after my performance in the main house,” he said.

A striking, never-before-seen painting of Suchet will take centre stage at The Rep for its biennial Gala Dinner in July when it will be auctioned off to raise vital funds for the theatre.

Explaining how the work of art came about, he said: “I was invited by the artist Ted Hiscock to sit for him to paint a portrait of me. My friendship with Ted goes back a very long way when we were both at Wellington School in Somerset in the 1960s.

“Not only is he an excellent artist but a very dear friend. How could I say ‘no’?!”

But he declined to comment on what he thinks about the painting, saying: “I always refrain from passing any public comments when asked my opinion of any portrait that has been painted of me. It is for others to express their opinion.”

For Suchet, who received a CBE in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to drama, theatres are incredibly important and he believes they need to be supported. “It is only in the theatre that the actors on stage and the audience have a unique relationship. There is an invisible fourth wall and they all breathe in the same air and share the same atmosphere and, of course, it is live,” he said.

“A regional theatre like The Rep is not just a theatre. It is a large public place buzzing all day with people coming in, not just so see plays. They come for breakfast, coffee, lunch, and dinner. t is a wonderful social hub which one cannot say for so many other public spaces,” he added.

He also believes The Rep has a lot to offer budding thespians. “To all aspiring young actors I would like to say ‘if you feel so passionately that you want to be an actor more than anything else in the world, then get in touch with The Rep to try and get involved’,” he added.

For many years Suchet, who is vice-president of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Trust, has also spoken of his love of British canals and helped fight for their restoration and protection.

He puts the Caldon Canal in Staffordshire, along with the Oxford Canal as his favourites, adding: “They are both very beautiful and special and I remember spending many happy times cruising there in our narrow boat there with my wife, Sheila.

“Canals are the only amenity that uses exactly the same waterways that were once used in the same way as our trunk roads are now used for trucks and lorries. These very same water motorways are now used not only for boaters but for nature lovers, walkers, cyclists and many other pastimes.

“Our canal system in our country is unique and one of our most precious jewels in our heritage crown.”

Subscribe to our Newsletter