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British actor David Suchet

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This time, David Suchet's a super-sleuth of sorts in the Vatican

photo by Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Susan King // Los Angeles Times

Though David Suchet played Agatha Christie’s brilliantly eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot for more than 25 years, the British actor never had a long-term contract with the series.

“Every time a Poirot series finished, I never knew if I was going to do another one,” said Suchet, who has written a book, “Poirot and Me” about his quarter-century as the rotund super-sleuth.

“Actually, looking back rather like a spider at his web at my life, I am actually grateful,” Suchet said. “I was free to choose and accept theater engagements, Hollywood films and other television. Although Poirot did come back every now and again, they always worked around my other commitments.”

When he wasn’t putting Poirot’s “little gray cells” to work, Suchet, 67, appeared in London’s West End in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and David Mamet’s “Oleanna.” And he earned a Tony nomination in 2000 for a revival of “Amadeus.” Suchet is now touring in Roger Crane’s “The Last Confession,” a political thriller the actor originally did in England in 2007. The play revolves around the sudden and mysterious death of Pope John Paul I in 1978 just 33 days after his election and before he could set his liberal reforms in motion. Suchet plays the politically adept Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, who had been instrumental in getting the former Cardinal Albino Luciani elected as pope.

Cardinal rule: Like his iconic detective Poirot role, David Suchet thirsts for justice in The Last Confession

photo by Tyler Anderson // National Post

Nathalie Atkinson // National Post, Toronto

David Suchet is late. This is unusual, the theatre manager explains, and there must be some mistake because punctuality is one trait that Suchet shares with his longtime character Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famously fastidious Belgian detective. Suchet shortly does arrive for afternoon rehearsal with his wife Sheila Ferris (who is also in the show) and, mon ami, a mix-up turns out to have been the case.

Suchet takes a seat behind the theatre manager’s ornate antique desk as she settles into the guest chair, this lifelong viewer admits feeling a bit like Miss Lemon — should I be taking dictation or at the very least offer him a cup of hot cocoa?

“If I was to sound like Poirot then you would, but I won’t do that to you!” he chuckles. After completing 25 years in that role (filming every single case and outing Christie wrote for her Belgian detective), the actor, 67, is in Toronto for the next several weeks in the role of Giovanni Benelli, the proud and plotting cardinal in Roger Crane’s play The Last Confession.

The Last Confession: Review

Christopher Hoile // Stage Door

It’s not often that a play opens on the same day that one of its characters is canonized. But that’s exactly what happened on April 27 when The Last Confession opened in which the late Pope John Paul II is a character. It is safe to surmise that the majority of people who go to see The Last Confession are not attending because it is the North American premiere of a play by Roger Crane. Instead, it is likely that the sole draw for the play is that its central character is played by David Suchet, an actor known around the world as the television incarnation of Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Crane’s play about the unusually short reign of Pope John Paul I (August 26-September 28, 1978) is no great work but it is an ideal vehicle for Suchet to reveal his enormous range as an actor. Even if you have no interest in Vatican politics, Crane’s play is intelligent enough and Jonathan Church’s direction is so slick that they make going to see David Suchet on stage a rewarding experience.

The Last Confession is the first play by American lawyer-turned-playwright Roger Crane. After a decade of rejections because of its subject matter, the Chichester Festival in England gave the play its world premiere in 2007 with David Suchet in the lead. It transferred to London’s West End for a successful run. The run in Toronto is the first stop in a world tour that will take the play to Los Angeles and various cities in Australia.

The Last Confession: Review

Richard Ouzounian // The Star, Toronto

“For what shall it profit a man,” asks the biblical quote, “if he shall gain the whole world and loses his own soul?”

Change “the whole world” to “the Vatican” and you’ve got a pretty clear statement of the theme of The Last Confession, which opened Sunday afternoon at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

You might not think a play about power politics in the Catholic Church could provide you with a thrilling time in the theatre, but you’d be wrong. The Last Confession packs in more suspense than the average murder mystery, but provides a lot of material to generate intellectual debate afterwards. And, most amazingly, it’s based on historical fact.

In 1978, Pope Paul VI died after a fairly stagnant 15-year reign and, following the usual factional fighting among the College of Cardinals, a sweet-spirited cleric named Albino Luciani was elected and called himself John Paul I.

What follows afterwards is the stranger-than-fiction saga of how power-hungry priests play Vatican roulette and don’t care about who lives or dies in the process.

A complex cardinal named Giovanni Benelli is at the eye of this hurricane, dealing with his own crisis of faith while trying to see that justice is done. At times you want to cheer him on, while at other moments, you turn your head away at the nakedness of his ambition.

David Suchet in The Last Confession is Drama at its Absolute Best

Alan Henry // BroadwayWorld.com

For the longest time, I was under the impression that Toronto audiences were not fans of drama — for we just don’t seem to get many of them in our biggest theatres during most theatre seasons.

From now until June 1st, Toronto audiences have the opportunity to experience drama at it’s finest — The Last Confession starring veteran stage and screen actor David Suchet is a brilliant work of art that can only be described as utterly brilliant.

The play, part murder mystery, part political commentary, part ethics debate hails to us after a highly successful run in the West End, before continuing on an international tour.

The play follows Cardinal Giovanni Benelli (Suchet), who doesn’t just serve the pope — he makes the pope. After manipulating a conclave to elect Albino Luciani as the pope following the death of pope Paul, Benelli seeks absolution from the current pope as he recalls the mysterious events surrounding the death of Luciani, who was found dead just thirty three days after being named the pope.

David Suchet and the mystery of faith

Richard Ouzounian // The Star, Toronto

David Suchet has been solving mysteries all his life. It’s not just in his current assignment as the inquisitorial Cardinal Benelli, trying to unearth Vatican scandal in The Last Confession, now playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

And it’s more than the 70 whodunits he tackled as that most neurotic of all Belgian detectives in the British TV series Agatha Christie’s Poirot, or his Tony-nominated turn in Amadeus as Salieri, the man behind the secrets of Mozart’s death, in 2000.

No, the most brain-twisting role of Suchet’s life was one he cast himself in: as a man searching for the true nature of his spirituality.

“It took 21 years and it was so painful that if I was to write the story of it, I would title it, Dragged Kicking and Screaming Into Belief.”

It’s a damp spring afternoon in London and Suchet is sitting in a tiny room off the main rehearsal area in a 19th-century boys’ club called Alford House. There’s barely room for Suchet, the reporter, two mismatched chairs and a pot of tea, but his gracious manner makes it seem like a suite at the Ritz.

He’s just stepped out of a scene in Roger Crane’s play where he’s trying to warn one Pope about the dangers presented by the forces controlling the Vatican Bank, only to find his fears glossed over by the rigors of religious ritual.

“Christianity is the most extraordinary lens through which to have a world view,” sighs Suchet, “but it’s also the most difficult of all faiths to make work...at least for me.”

There is an irony, not lost on Suchet, that he finally confirmed in the Anglican church in 2007, the year he first began working on The Last Confession.

David Suchet: “Recording the NIV Bible is my legacy”

Carey Lodge // Christian Today

Best known as the moustached eponymous hero of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, David Suchet has now bade farewell to the iconic role and fulfilled a “27 year ambition” to make an audio recording of the entire NIV Bible.

To be released this Thursday, it marks the result of over 200 hours in the recording studio while filming the final series of his hit detective TV series, which ran for an astonishing 25 years. Though he speaks in his usual British accent, rather than the dulcet tones of his fictional Belgian counterpart, Suchet’s velvet-smooth voice nonetheless carries a melody befitting the greatest story ever told.

It’s arguably his most personal project yet. After becoming a Christian while reading Romans 8 in a hotel Bible in 1986, Suchet quickly realised that he could use his talents to share his newfound faith.

“I thought: ’Well one thing I can do, or I think I can do, is to read.’ And I’ve for many, many years felt that I wanted to put my voice to the Bible, and not only bits of the Bible, but the whole thing.

“It will, for me, fulfil what I suppose is a 27 year ambition,” he muses.

Christian Today caught up with David to find out more about his exciting latest project, and just why he took on such a momentous task.

CT: Hi David, recording the entire NIV is no mean feat. What led you to do it?

DS: It was a mixture of things, going right back to my early school days when I loved reading the Bible. I wasn’t a religious boy at all, my conversion came later in 1986, but when I was young I found that people said they enjoyed listening to me read in chapel, and I absolutely loved it.

David Suchet talks “The Last Confession,” papal parallels and his own faith

Victoria Ahearn // The Canadian Press

British actor David Suchet, star of the long-running detective series “Agatha Christie’s Poirot,” is reprising his role as Giovanni Cardinal Benelli in the papal play “The Last Confession” for an international tour that kicks off Saturday in Toronto.

Running at Mirvish Productions’ Royal Alexandra Theatre, the Roger Crane show looks at the circumstances surrounding the mysterious 1978 death of John Paul I, who was pope for only 33 days.

Suchet, a British Academy Television Award nominee, first starred in the project in 2007 at the Chichester Festival Theatre and then at Theatre Royal Haymarket in London.

On the world tour, the 67-year-old stars alongside London native Richard O’Callaghan under the direction of Jonathan Church. Suchet talked to The Canadian Press about the show and his character, who was a close friend of John Paul I.

CP: Since your initial reading of the script 10 years ago, a lot has changed — we’ve had different popes and the current one seems to be more in line with the pontiff depicted in this story.

Suchet: If you look at John Paul I, who was commonly known as the People’s Pope or ... the Smiling Pope ... he was a very liberal pope. He was going to do many, many things. He was addressing contraception ... he was going to look into possible areas of allowing, in certain circumstances, euthanasia ... and even women in the church. He was going to readdress that. ... Of course the conservatives didn’t like it and then after his death, we have ... on the surface a liberal pope because he agreed with ... the Second Vatican Council, which was going to be much more liberal, which was supported by John Paul II.

David Suchet on CBC Radio-Canada

// CBC Radio-Canada

A whodunnit of a higher order. David Suchet is best known for his twenty-five year stint as Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and his detective roles continue in the Toronto production of “The Last Confession,” in which he investigates the death of Pope John Paul.

David Suchet on BBC Radio 2

// BBC Radio 2

David discusses his Poirot career and his upcoming plans. And promises to come back soon!

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