Man of the cloth

David “Poirot” Suchet re­turns to fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, in­ves­ti­gat­ing a sus­pi­cious death – this time of a Pope – in tour­ing stage play The Last Con­fes­sion.

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT - Story Damien Whit­worth

Ac­tor David Suchet re­veals his Road-to-Da­m­as­cus con­ver­sion en route to play­ing a car­di­nal

in the begin­ning there was a bath­tub and David Suchet was in it. “It be­gan in Seat­tle in an ho­tel in 1986,” he says. “As I was ly­ing in my bath I was think­ing of my grand­fa­ther, Jimmy, who was sort of my spir­i­tual guide. I thought, isn't that funny that I think he's with me? I don't re­ally be­lieve in life af­ter death. I don't want to be­lieve that. I thought, is there a Bi­ble? And I opened the drawer of my bedside ta­ble and there wasn't.”

That might have been that. Suchet, now 68, who was shoot­ing the movie Big­foot and the Hen­der­sons, could just have headed to the bar and had a drink with his fel­low ac­tors. How­ever, the ac­tor is noth­ing if not as­sid­u­ous, and he dug out the Yel­low Pages, found a book­shop and went out to buy a Bi­ble. That night he read Paul's Let­ter to the Ro­mans. “I was grabbed in a way that I never, ever thought I would be. I was look­ing at a world view that I had been search­ing for ever since the Bea­tles.”

So be­gan a more than 20-year ex­plo­ration that even­tu­ally led to Suchet's con­ver­sion to Chris­tian­ity. He is telling the story be­cause, in the post- Poirot

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Christie's Bel­gian de­tec­tive aired in Aus­tralia in Fe­bru­ary), he's been look­ing for fresh chal­lenges. One of them was record­ing an au­dio book (re­leased on CD in April) of the whole of the New In­ter­na­tional Ver­sion of the Bi­ble, which he re­gards as “prob­a­bly the big­gest-sell­ing, most un­read book in the world”.

But be­fore we get into the Chris­tian­ity, I want to know more about the Bea­tles. “I'm a Bea­tle boy,” he says. “If you re­mem­ber, they went to gu­rus in In­dia; ev­ery­body was look­ing for some­thing. I read [Car­los] Cas­taneda [the New Age guru], who was un­der magic mush­rooms and all the rest of it. I would read San­skrit and the Bha­gavad Gita. I read all those. I was re­ally look­ing and search­ing. The Bea­tles en­cour­aged peo­ple to do that. It be­came very pop­u­lar for peo­ple to go to In­dia to their guru. It never worked for me, any of that. Although I be­came a Zen Bud­dhist for a bit.”

For a mo­ment I try to rec­on­cile this image of Suchet the Bud­dhist in sub­ur­bia with the im­mac­u­lately dressed man with­out a hair out of

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Dock­lands, East Lon­don, which com­mands views

RI ZDWHU RQ WKUHH VLGHV DQG LV ¿OOHG ZLWK DUW DQG the mem­o­ra­bilia of a suc­cess­ful act­ing ca­reer. The Bud­dhism was a long time ago, of course. But the spir­i­tual quest didn't end there: “I ob­vi­ously had a per­son­al­ity that was search­ing for some­thing.” Suchet's fa­ther, a med­i­cal spe­cial­ist, was Jewish and his mother a nom­i­nal Chris­tian, but nei­ther was re­li­gious. At Welling­ton School in Som­er­set, in Eng­land's south-west, he en­joyed read­ing from the King James Bi­ble in chapel but more from the per­spec­tive of an as­pir­ing ac­tor who rel­ished the lan­guage than for the mes­sage.

The bath­tub mo­ment did not ex­actly her­ald

D 3DXOLQH FRQYHUVLRQ. ³3DXO KDG WKH ÀDVKLQJ bright light and the world changed. That's not me. The way that I pre­pare for a role was the way I pre­pare for my faith.” If this were strictly true we'd be wait­ing decades be­tween per­for­mances, for Suchet's ex­plo­ration of Chris­tian­ity has been ex­haus­tive and started from the work­ing premise that it's all non­sense. “I was de­ter­mined to prove it wrong,” he says. “I was de­ter­mined that the res­ur­rec­tion never hap­pened.” From 1986 to 2007 KH ³GLG WKH $ WR = RI FKXUFKHV´, WU\LQJ WR ¿QG WKH ULJKW ¿W. +LV ZLIH, 6KHLOD, JUHZ XS D &KULVWLDQ, DQG has been “very sup­port­ive”, but it was not easy when he kept dis­ap­pear­ing to dif­fer­ent churches all over

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from the US say­ing what had be­gun to hap­pen.”

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learn­ing his lines for The Last Con­fes­sion.

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