His trademarks include the waxed moustache, the pince nez and the distinctive Belgian accent but not least among Poirot’s defining characteristics is that rather unusual walk.
Now, David Suchet has finally revealed that the secret behind what Agatha Christie described as the detective’s “rapid, mincing gait” is a strategically placed penny.
“I remember Laurence Olivier playing Lord Foppington in the theatre,” said Suchet, who has portrayed Poirot in the ITV series for nearly 25 years. “He wanted to mince, and the way he did it – and this is absolutely true – he put an old penny… [here Suchet invited his audience to use their imaginations] and squeezed it very tight…”
“Soooo…,” he continued, “there were was no old penny but I did something similar. I attempted to walk [while gripping it] but walking ordinarily, this was not possible. If you really tighten and hold the penny… it had to be rapid.”
Suchet had a crowd at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in stitches as he told this story, particularly when he got up to demonstrate the very specific way in which Poirot is forced to turn corners – but that had to be seen to be appreciated.
Ever the professional, Suchet explained that he no longer needed the prop to perform Poirot’s special walk – “I do not use the penny any more” – but whether he has kept it as a souvenir is another matter. Our advice? Never ask David Suchet for change from a pound…