Jo Litson // Sunday Telegraph
InÂ 1985, David Suchet played Inspector Japp inÂ aÂ film ofÂ Agatha Christieâ€™s Thirteen atÂ Dinner with Peter Ustinov asÂ Poirot. Fortunately heÂ wasnâ€™t very good. Had heÂ been, heÂ may never have taken onÂ the role ofÂ Poirot himself.
Suchet, ofÂ course, played Christieâ€™s fastidious little Belgian detective inÂ 74Â telemovies over 25Â years, winning millions ofÂ fans around the world.
InÂ between his Poirot commitments, heÂ returned regularly toÂ the stage though heÂ wasnâ€™t able toÂ undertake aÂ long run. However, after Poirotâ€™s death inÂ the final episode last year, Suchet now has the time toÂ tour internationally inÂ aÂ play byÂ Roger Crane called The Last Confession, currently inÂ Australia. Set inÂ the Vatican itÂ isÂ billed asÂ â€śaÂ thrillerâ€ť set around the sudden (some think suspicious) death ofÂ Pope John Paul IÂ inÂ 1978.
Next, heÂ plays Lady Bracknell inÂ Oscar Wildeâ€™s â€śtrivial comedy for serious peopleâ€ť The Importance ofÂ Being Earnest inÂ Londonâ€™s West End.
During aÂ quick media stop-over inÂ Sydney before the start ofÂ the tour inÂ Perth, the thoroughly charming, genial British actor took time toÂ talk about saying goodbye toÂ Poirot, his current role inÂ The Last Confession, his conversion toÂ Christianity, Twitter and the chance toÂ play Lady Bracknell.
photo by AAP IMAGE // The Saturday Paper
Peter Craven // The Saturday Paper
Most famous asÂ TVâ€™s moustachioed sleuth, David Suchetâ€™s onstage role asÂ aÂ cardinal isÂ cashing inÂ onÂ his mass appeal.
The trajectory ofÂ anÂ actorâ€™s career isÂ always anÂ enigma. David Suchet played Iago atÂ the Royal Shakespeare Company opposite Ben Kingsleyâ€™s Othello. Anyone who has seen his toweringly sinister performance asÂ Melmotte inÂ the television version ofÂ Anthony Trollopeâ€™s The Way WeÂ Live Now orÂ his startling and uncanny reanimation ofÂ Robert MaxwellÂ â€” that dodgiest ofÂ crooked billionairesÂ â€” would beÂ likely toÂ mark Suchet down asÂ the kind ofÂ character actor who can loom upÂ for aÂ moment asÂ something twisted and terrible, one ofÂ natureâ€™s Bond villains orÂ one ofÂ the creepier characters inÂ Jacobean tragedy.
And yet this side ofÂ his careerÂ â€” that capacity toÂ make grotesquerie and evil seem realÂ â€” isÂ only one ofÂ the tricks inÂ his pack ofÂ cards, and not the showiest. What heâ€™s famous for isÂ playing Agatha Christieâ€™s Hercule Poirot, the Belgian super-sleuth with the â€śleetle grey cellsâ€ť and waxed moustache, probably the greatest detective inÂ imaginative fiction since Sherlock Holmes, aÂ character almost atÂ the edge ofÂ comical absurdity who isÂ nevertheless for the whodunit fan aÂ kind ofÂ shaman and seer, aÂ figure ofÂ steely intelligence and iron rectitude.
Rita Moran // Ventura County Star
David Suchet brilliantly defines the tortured soul ofÂ aÂ Catholic cardinal caught inÂ Vatican politics atÂ aÂ time ofÂ papal transition. The leading actor inÂ aÂ company ofÂ excellent cohorts, Suchet lends passion and nuance toÂ his role asÂ Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, the man seeking toÂ make â€śThe Last Confessionâ€ť that may free him ofÂ the pain and guilt heÂ feels atÂ the sudden death ofÂ Pope John PaulÂ I, who reigned only 33Â days inÂ 1978. John Paul Iâ€™s death after such aÂ brief period isÂ the focus ofÂ attorney Roger Craneâ€™s well-researched drama. The current production originated inÂ Toronto atÂ the Chichester Festival Theatre and now isÂ playing atÂ the Ahmanson Theatre inÂ Los Angeles, the only U.S. stop inÂ aÂ tour that next heads toÂ Australia.
Suffice itÂ toÂ say that there isÂ not aÂ soupĂ§on ofÂ Hercule Poirot, the Agatha Christie character Suchet brought toÂ meticulous life for countlessÂ TV seasons, inÂ the actorâ€™s masterful portrayal ofÂ aÂ man who tried toÂ edge the church back toward the open-air principles ofÂ Pope John XXIIIâ€™s 1962 Second Vatican Council.
photo by Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times
Susan King // Los Angeles Times
Though David Suchet played Agatha Christieâ€™s brilliantly eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot for more than 25Â years, the British actor never had aÂ long-term contract with the series.
â€śEvery time aÂ Poirot series finished, IÂ never knew ifÂ I was going toÂ doÂ another one,â€ť said Suchet, who has written aÂ book, â€śPoirot andÂ Meâ€ť about his quarter-century asÂ the rotund super-sleuth.
â€śActually, looking back rather like aÂ spider atÂ his web atÂ myÂ life, IÂ am actually grateful,â€ť Suchet said. â€śIÂ was free toÂ choose and accept theater engagements, Hollywood films and other television. Although Poirot did come back every now and again, they always worked around myÂ other commitments.â€ť
When heÂ wasnâ€™t putting Poirotâ€™s â€ślittle gray cellsâ€ť toÂ work, Suchet, 67, appeared inÂ Londonâ€™s West End inÂ Arthur Millerâ€™s â€śAll MyÂ Sons,â€ť Eugene Oâ€™Neillâ€™s â€śLong Dayâ€™s Journey Into Nightâ€ť and David Mametâ€™s â€śOleanna.â€ť And heÂ earned aÂ Tony nomination inÂ 2000 for aÂ revival ofÂ â€śAmadeus.â€ť Suchet isÂ now touring inÂ Roger Craneâ€™s â€śThe Last Confession,â€ť aÂ political thriller the actor originally did inÂ England inÂ 2007. The play revolves around the sudden and mysterious death ofÂ Pope John Paul IÂ inÂ 1978 just 33Â days after his election and before heÂ could set his liberal reforms inÂ motion. Suchet plays the politically adept Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, who had been instrumental inÂ getting the former Cardinal Albino Luciani elected asÂ pope.
Paul Hodgins // Orange County
Imagine youâ€™re aÂ first-time playwright and you find out that aÂ famous actor isÂ interested inÂ your script.
Now imagine waiting aÂ decade for that lucky break toÂ turn into aÂ world premiere. Imagine being close toÂ retirement age when you finally see your words performed onÂ stage.
â€śItâ€™s aÂ fascinating story, isnâ€™t it?â€ť said David Suchet. The 68-year-old British actor, aÂ familiar face onÂ TV and film, isÂ perhaps best known for his portrayal ofÂ eccentric Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot inÂ the long-running series â€śAgatha Christie: Poirot.â€ť
â€śIÂ go back with this particular piece aÂ long time,â€ť Suchet said ofÂ Roger Craneâ€™s â€śThe Last Confession,â€ť which opens Wednesday atÂ the Ahmanson Theatre inÂ Los Angeles. Crane, aÂ New York lawyer, had never written aÂ complete play before, and his inexperience showed, Suchet said. â€śWhen itÂ was first sent toÂ me, IÂ saidÂ no. ItÂ wasnâ€™t ready then toÂ beÂ performed.â€ť
The central character inÂ Craneâ€™s play isÂ Giovanni Benelli, the archbishop ofÂ Florence and aÂ member ofÂ the Vatican hierarchy, who thinks that the untimely death ofÂ Pope John Paul IÂ inÂ 1978 after only 33Â days inÂ office looks suspicious.
â€śIÂ loved the idea; aÂ conspiracy-theory piece was very intriguing toÂ me,â€ť Suchet said. â€śBut the character ofÂ Benelli wasnâ€™t quite fully formed, and the play needed toÂ beÂ cut. Iâ€™m not aÂ dramaturge; IÂ donâ€™t understand how toÂ doÂ that.â€ť
Craig Byrd // Los Angeles Magazine
The death ofÂ Pope John Paul IÂ inÂ 1978 after only 33Â days asÂ the head ofÂ the Catholic Church has intrigued storytellers and true crime fans, alike. Francis Ford Coppola used itÂ asÂ aÂ subplot inÂ The Godfather III. Roger Crane, aÂ lawyer, uses the Popeâ€™s sudden death and the search for his replacement asÂ the backdrop for his first play, The Last Confession. Though more than just aÂ whodunit, itÂ stars David Suchet, anÂ actor whoâ€™s famous for his performance asÂ inspector Hercule Poirot inÂ 74Â episodes ofÂ Masterpiece Mystery!
InÂ this case, Suchet isnâ€™t playing anÂ impeccably groomed Belgian detective; heâ€™s using his little grey matter toÂ look into whether orÂ not Pope John Paul IÂ was murdered. HeÂ plays Cardinal Benelli, aÂ man who was considered the Popeâ€™s possible successor but instead rallies support for cardinal Albino Luciani (Richard Oâ€™Callaghan). After John Paulâ€™s death, Benelli isÂ relentless inÂ pursuing the truth until itÂ butts heads with his own aspirations.
The Last Confession debuted with Suchet inÂ the central role atÂ the Chichester Festival Theatre inÂ England inÂ 2007. Heâ€™s revisiting the play for aÂ tour that began inÂ Toronto and travels toÂ Australia after the show ends its run inÂ Los Angeles. â€śIâ€™ve just had lunch with myÂ playwright,â€ť says Suchet. â€śHeÂ told meÂ itÂ changed radically from 2007 because ofÂ myÂ own faith journey. Itâ€™s not just being aÂ Vatican whodunit with the actor who played Poirot heading the investigation. Itâ€™s much deeper and more complex. This isÂ anÂ angry man, aÂ frustrated man, and aÂ man full ofÂ faults that heâ€™s able toÂ admit. Heâ€™s aÂ man searching for true faith within aÂ huge corporation that isÂ ruled byÂ power and money, which isÂ called the church. Benelliâ€™s weakness isÂ pride; ifÂ heÂ can become Pope, even without faith, heâ€™ll still goÂ forÂ it.â€ť
Myron Meisel // The Hollywood Reporter
English actor David Suchet, best known for his long-running TVÂ role asÂ Agatha Christieâ€™s detective Poirot, stars inÂ aÂ story ofÂ corruption atÂ the Vatican.
Organized around the star wattage ofÂ David Suchet, the celebrated and prolific British theater actor best known worldwide for his 74Â television films asÂ Agatha Christieâ€™s detective Hercule Poiret, The Last Confession makes for aÂ rather wan touring vehicle for his talents. Suchet originated the real-life role ofÂ Cardinal Giovanni Benelli atÂ the Chichester Festival inÂ 2007 and continued with aÂ West End run, and this somewhat fusty enterprise, inÂ Los Angeles enÂ route from Toronto toÂ all major Australian cities, charmingly recalls aÂ tradition ofÂ the barnstorming impresario rarely encountered any longer inÂ more cosmopolitan climes.
Pope John XXIII died the year after heÂ convened the Second Vatican Council, the most comprehensive reform enterprise inÂ Catholic Church history, leaving its ambitions only partially realized. Conservative cardinals comprising the all-controlling centralized administration, The Curia, engineered the election ofÂ PaulÂ VI (John Oâ€™May), aÂ supporter ofÂ the reforms inÂ principle but terminally equivocal inÂ action. InÂ the last year ofÂ his reign, nearly 80, Paul elevates the independent-minded Benelli toÂ Cardinal ofÂ Florence, positioning him toÂ become the next Pope. But Benelli, determined toÂ thwart the reactionaries, become the kingmaker instead, anointing aÂ pure-hearted pastoral priest, Cardinal Albino Luciani ofÂ Venice (Richard Oâ€™Callaghan), who adopts the conciliatory moniker John PaulÂ I.
Don Grigware // Broadway World
In the history of the Roman Catholic Church, one papal election curiously stood apart. After Pope Paulâ€™s death in 1978, a compromise pope was elected, Albino Luciani, who named himself Pope John Paul I. His reign lasted a mere 33 days when, in apparent good health, he died suddenly, creating the suspicion of murder. The Last Confession by Roger Crane explores this time period in Roman Catholic history with a keen eye for details and propelling fine dramatic exchanges. Headed by resourceful actor David Suchet as Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, the cast, mostly from England, is a sturdy lot, and most likely only those repulsed by religion and/or politics will find the action less than intriguing, through July 6 only.
The issue most raised by the cardinals in the play: Divine Providence and human intervention. Where do you draw the line? Well, quite honestly, through the years tradition has won out, meaning little has changed; what was begun in 1962 by the Vatican Council to re-examine doctrine and its practicality to human issues has not yielded significant results. Human intervention â€” searching for ways to save menâ€™s souls â€” has been and continues to be fruitless, a fact that Roger Crane supports in making Benelli burn his confession at playâ€™s end. He was outnumbered by greed and power, so his cause hit a brick wall. Benelli himself was power hungry: he vied for the Papal office. In fact, he ignored Pope John Paul, whom he had helped to become Pope, because he desired a promotion. In the process, he also lost his faith. So neither was he what one would call a saint. His suspicions of murder and quest for the truth, however, did drive him forward with a some degree of integrity... until the Cardinals offered him a chance as their prime candidate for Papal replacement. Deceit, greed for power and money have become synonymous with the Vatican; it is no small wonder when man turns his back on the Church, seeing it as another corrupt corporation. All the while these men, who call themselves priests, excuse their actions as the will of God. As far as assisting third world countries, they hypocritically assert (or are they truly blind?): â€śThe Church has no place in politicsâ€ť. What a laugh!
Charles Mcnulty // Los Angeles Times
David Suchet, best known for his television portrayal ofÂ Agatha Christieâ€™s Hercule Poirot, plays another canny scrutinizer ofÂ nefarious human behavior inÂ Roger Craneâ€™s â€śThe Last Confession,â€ť aÂ straightforward political drama sexing itself upÂ asÂ aÂ religious whodunit.
InÂ this Chichester Festival Theatre production, which has its only U.S. stop atÂ the Ahmanson Theatre, Suchet plays Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, aÂ Vatican moderate who was considered aÂ leading candidate toÂ become pope but instead became the power behind the Supreme Pontiff after helping toÂ make Pope John PaulÂ I, whose papacy lasted aÂ mere 33Â days.
The conspiracy theories instigated byÂ this untimely death would beÂ enough toÂ make Dan Brownâ€™s mouth water, and Crane takes advantage ofÂ the mysterious circumstances that some believe point toÂ murder.
But his main objective isnâ€™t solving this most holy ofÂ cold cases. â€śThe Last Confessionâ€ť earnestly engages issues ofÂ reform and backlash, wondering whether itâ€™s wise orÂ even feasible for anÂ idealistic new leader toÂ attempt toÂ radically transform anÂ institution with entrenched interests and intransigent elites.
Ed Rampell // LA Progressive
Roger Craneâ€™s The Last Confession isÂ first rate drama atÂ its best. Not only does itÂ tackle the big issues but itÂ also has aÂ top notch cast that delivers solid, riveting performances. The ensemble isÂ rather cannily led byÂ David Suchet, who from 1989 toÂ 2013 has portrayed Inspector Hercule Poirot onÂ TV adaptations ofÂ Agatha Christieâ€™s celebrated sleuth.
The major topics that Confession takes onÂ are the role ofÂ religion and the behind-the-scenes infighting ofÂ Holy Mother Church, which isÂ both aÂ spiritual asÂ well asÂ aÂ temporal power. AsÂ the latter, Vatican City isÂ literally anÂ independent state and asÂ the earthly representative ofÂ the official creed ofÂ almost aÂ billion people, itâ€™s also aÂ political and economic entity toÂ beÂ reckoned with. Viewers ofÂ 1990â€™s third installment ofÂ The Godfather saga may beÂ familiar with the Vaticanâ€™s purported banking scandals and Mafioso ties.
After Albino Luciani, aka Pope John PaulÂ I (Richard Oâ€™Callaghan inÂ aÂ moving performance), replaced Pope Paul inÂ 1978, heÂ lasted only 33Â days asÂ the pontiff, triggering conspiracy theories about foul play inÂ the Vatican. Thus the sheer genius ofÂ casting Suchet asÂ Vatican powerbroker Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, who investigates the death ofÂ the benevolent man who turned out toÂ beÂ far more liberal than the conclave ofÂ cardinals had expected, and only wore the shoes ofÂ the fisherman for aÂ month before his mysterious death. His demise occurred shortly after heÂ purportedly attempted toÂ remove entrenched Vatican bureaucrats from their sinecures ofÂ power. Suchetâ€™s sleuth lives againÂ â€” although not asÂ aÂ suave Belgian inÂ this theatrical whodunit. This time heâ€™s anÂ Italian cardinal trying toÂ crack the caseÂ of: Who murdered the pope?