Robert Powell detects plum new role as Hercule Poirot in Black Coffee

Robert Powell in Black Coffee

In hugely successful career ranging over 45 years stage and screen actor Robert Powell has played them all.

But stepping into the immaculately polished shoes of Agatha Christie’s iconic detective, Hercule Poirot, has given him a taste for murder.

It’s a crime that Christie only wrote one stage play for Poirot, Black Coffee, because audiences love the character.

Bill Kenwright’s Agatha Christie Theatre Company has been touring with a revival of the thriller and it comes to Milton Keynes Theatre on April 28 for the week.

The 69-year-old star has been amazed by the public’s response.

“I had no idea it was so popular. It’s done the most phenomenal business,” he said.

“There’s something about the genre that appeals and I’m delighted at the success of the tour.”

Surprisingly this is only the second time Powell has played a detective.

His first outing in CID was with chum, Jasper Carrott, in the hit 1990s BBCTV series called The Detectives which saw the pair play bumbling cops Bob Louis and David Briggs.

“I’ve actually done quite a bit of comedy throughout my career, which surprises a lot of people.

“Jasper was a mate and he asked me to do it and we had a great time. It was tremendous fun.”

He started his career on the wrong side of the law with a bit part in the original 1969 movie The Italian Job but later went on to Jesus Of Nazareth, Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps, and Holby City.

In-between he’s worked almost continuously in film, on TV and stage as well as a lucrative voice-over career.

He is, perhaps, the only person in the world who hasn’t seen a single moment of David Suchet’s turn as Monsieur Poirot despite the actor playing the role on TV for more than the past 25-years.

“No, I’ve never seen it,” he admits. “But I’ve no need to.

“Black Coffee was the first play Christie wrote and the only play that includes Hercule Poirot as the protagonist.

“Other people were adapting her books and she didn’t like it so she decided to do him herself.

“No-one really knows why, but she never used him in a play again.

“I’d never really been that interested in detective stories.

“Drama used to be 60 minutes long in which to tell a story but, for some reason, you see these stories on TV these days and they’re often two hours long and stretched over several nights.

“They’re so slow.

“I like things that entertain me, amuse me and are novel. I don’t like getting stuck into any one thing for a long time.

“Poirot is an amazing character. He’s pompous but actually quite funny, unwittingly so.

“As a character he does dominate but I have loved playing him and, actually, wouldn’t mind doing it again.

“I’m looking forward to coming to Milton Keynes. I do like the theatre there.”

Black Coffee is set on a quintessential English country estate.

Chaos follows the murder of eccentric inventor Sir Claud Amory, and the theft of his new earth shattering formula.

Arriving at the estate just moments too late Poirot immediately senses a potent brew of despair, treachery, and deception.

Mon dieu! Time to put those little grey cells to work, Hastings.

The drama also stars TV favourites Liza Goddard, Gary Mavers and Ben Nealon.

Black Coffee runs from April 28-May 3.

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