Best known for playing moustachioed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, David Suchet is also a keen boater and all-round waterways do-gooder. Here he reveals the moment he fell in love with our waterways.
David’s introduction to the waterways, came courtesy of a tantalising view from his dressing room window while starring in As You Like It in Stratford-upon-Avon, back in the early 1970s. He was immediately smitten, he says, by what looked like “very long pencil cases” bobbing about on the river outside. “After the matinee performance my curiosity got the better of me and I took a walk along the bank, rather naughtily peering through some of the boat windows to get a better idea. I couldn’t believe they were so beautiful. I just fell in love with it all then.”
With his wife Sheila, also an actor, he bought 52ft narrowboat Prima Donna soon after, and the couple became early leisure boaters-cum-liveaboards, brieﬂy enjoying a home mooring at Bull’s Bridge Wharf at the end of the Paddington Arm, before cruising wherever their theatre work took them, from Manchester to Birmingham and, inevitably, back to Stratford. Despite the conﬁned space, David insists rehearsing aboard was never a problem: “This is what you had, and this is what you made work.”
As his theatre work increased, Sheila was often left to move the boat herself, sometimes under intense time pressure to carry on cruising well into the night. “She’s extraordinary,” exclaims David. “I truly think she’s a reincarnation of the original boat-woman.” To this day he wouldn’t cruise anywhere without her. “The best thing is, we’ve got to a situation over the years where neither of us needs to talk at all. She generally steers, I do the locks, and we can cruise for miles without even a word, and it’s just like a dance through the canals.”