How Hercule Poirot's popularity soared during lockdown

It’s a few years now since David Suchet completed his remarkable run as Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989-2013).

David Suchet by Ben Symons
David Suchet by Ben Symons

But it was only during lockdown that the whole Poirot adventure came to its natural fruition, says Sir David who is currently on the road with Poirot And More, A Retrospective.

“During lockdown, it is fair to say, without any exaggeration, that my mailbag for Poirot trebled and from all around the world. We discovered that during this long period of lockdown people have been going to my films and watching them at home. They simply loved the company of Poirot.”

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Could it have been that Poirot represented a world where problems were solved at the end – unlike the grimly open-ended world of Covid?

“I really don’t know and I really can’t understand it, but people were getting the box sets and they were saying ‘Thank you!’ And I just cannot tell you how humbling that is.”

Poirot And More, A Retrospective looks back fondly at David’s illustrious career, sharing some of his most beloved performances in a new and intimate light.

Geoffrey Wansell, journalist, broadcaster, biographer and co-author of Poirot and Me, will be joining David as interviewer on stage for dates including Theatre Royal Brighton, Thursday, October 21; Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, Sunday, October 24; Chichester Festival Theatre, Tuesday, November 9-Wednesday, November 10; and Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, November 26-27.

With David’s remarkable career away from Poirot, clearly there is a great deal to say in the “And More” half of the show’s title, but clearly the Poirot is massive – and a massive surprise too.

David’s pride is that his Poirot comes absolutely from Agatha Christie’s books: “I was determined that I would be very, very true to what she wrote. Just before the series started showing, I was being interviewed, I think by The Daily Telegraph, and I was asked how I thought it would go. I said I was rather frightened that people might consider it a bit boring.

“There have been some wonderful comedy interpretations of Hercule Poirot by some wonderful actors like Peter Ustinov, but the Agatha Christie estate just didn’t want me to do that.”

The point about Poirot is that he is wonderfully eccentric, as David says, but he is not a comedy character: “And I am just incredibly thankful to the public for accepting that.”

Once he had done all the Agatha Christie Poirots, David realised that that was where the adventure had to end: “I was asked if I would continue the role in a new adaptation of a story that was not written by Agatha Christie, someone perhaps writing a Poirot for me, and I thought long and hard about that. Obviously it was tempting, but I decided that because my whole character had been in the service of Agatha Christie and her books, I thought that the time had come to stop with what we had done.”

Poirot And More, A Retrospective is a show which David managed to do in Australia and New Zealand before the first lockdown. In fact, he managed to get out of Australia by just a matter of hours before the country effectively shut down.

He is delighted now to be doing it in the UK at a time when we perhaps need to be encouraged back into the theatre. He is hoping that it might provide precisely the safe show to tempt us out.

“Regional theatre has always been very close to my heart as it’s where my career started and was nurtured. To visit so many places that have meant so much to me during my 52-year career is wonderful.

“This show is my way of connecting and saying hello to people across the country after this terrible period and welcoming them back into the theatre. I am looking forward to sharing my memories, stories and favourite moments.”

For David, the fascination is that the show enables him to see the way the many threads of his life have come together.

“It is rather like a spider looking back on his web! A spider spins from behind, and obviously we don’t know what we are doing in our lives, how one thing can lead to another, and in the end it’s all like a spider’s web, all the little threads that have come together in ways that you couldn’t have expected.”

David even goes back to his first performance on stage at the age of eight: “I was an oyster! And I was a terrible oyster!”