The one-man retrospective is an interesting theatrical beast. It has the potential to be self-indulgent, dull, and repetitive—churning out the same anecdotes that have filled a thousand chat show sofas and autobiographies. On the other hand, it can be enlightening, fun, and genuinely impressive to watch an actor at the peak of his craft. Like with fellow theatrical behemoth Ian McKellen, David Suchet’s Poirot and More: A Retrospective falls into the latter category. After two hours that felt like fifteen minutes, you emerge feeling as if you’ve spent an evening with a remarkable friend and learnt a BA’s worth of theatrical practice. It is engaging, heartfelt, and the best of its kind.
The evening is split in two: an interview between Suchet and long-time friend Geoffrey Wansell, and a theatrical masterclass, wherein Suchet reveals the tricks of the trade. Suchet’s anecdotes are hilarious and enlightening—particularly when detailing the pitfalls of the repertory system—and take us on a speedy tour of personal highlights. Although there is frequent and unashamed namedropping, as well as some heavily rehearsed segments prompted by Wansell, these are matched with Suchet’s naturally disarming personality and talent for storytelling, along with a large dose of self-deprecation. The stories are brilliantly told and carefully arranged, and both performers have got the show down pat, after months of touring.
Although both halves are successful, the second might edge it a touch more. Here Suchet takes us through the ‘Shakespeare Highway Code’, delivering instructions like your favourite university lecturer and speeches like the Tony Award winner he is. As a result, you come out feeling as if you have a greater handle on the classics, but also that you have been privileged to watch one of the country’s greatest actors at his best. If nothing else, come for the moments when Suchet drops in and out of character—they are staggering representations of his acting practice.
And then, of course, we come to Poirot. Aficionados won’t be disappointed as we are treated to plenty of glimpses of the little Belgian detective, as well as props and anecdotes taken from the series’ 25-year run. These are some of the most emotional parts of the evening, as Suchet is clearly still attached to the character, and from the approving murmurs from the stalls, so are the audience. Most impressively of all, we are treated to something truly spectacular. I won’t spoil it, but I can only compare it to watching a magic act: something born of skill and practice, but with genuine wonder as well. It’s the perfect end to an evening all about the impressive craft and winning personality of its star.
Poirot and More: A Retrospective goes beyond the limits of its format. It offers you three shows in one: a tribute to Poirot, an anecdote-fest worthy of Peter Ustinov, and an acting masterclass worth thousands. As a chance to witness one of Britain’s best and warmest actors, it is genuinely unmissable.
Words by Issy Flower
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