ONE OF Britain's most instantly recognisable actors will star as Hercule Poirot in a new production of Agatha Christie's first play Black Coffee at Stoke's Regent Theatre.
Robert Powell has received multiple awards and a Bafta nomination for his portrayal of Jesus in Franco Zefferelli's Jesus of Nazareth.
The Salford actor went on to star in numerous film hits including 39 Steps, Four Feathers and Shaka Zulu. His extensive stage performances include Alan Bennett's Single Spies, Keith Waterhouse's Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.
The play will be staged by the Agatha Christie Theatre Company and will have a six-day residency at the theatre next month.
Powell is supported by a heavy-weight cast including Agatha Christie Company regulars Liza Goddard, star of such television hits as Bergerac and the long-running Give Us A Clue, Gary Mavers who is best known for playing heart-throb doctor Andrew Attwood in Peak Practice and Ben Nealon, Capt Forsythe in the drama Soldier Soldier.
A quintessential English country estate is thrown into chaos following the murder of eccentric inventor Sir Claud Amory and the theft of his new earth-shattering formula. Arriving at the estate moments too late, one man immediately senses a potent brew of despair, treachery and deception amid the estate's occupants. That man is Hercule Poirot.
Poirot debuted in Christie's 1920 novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, making his first and only stage outing in Black Coffee.
The Belgian investigator went on to become one of world's most cherished and long-lived fictional characters, appearing in 33 novels and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975. To this day he remains the only fictitious character to receive a front-page obituary in the New York Times.
His legend has proved ripe for adaptation and Poirot has been portrayed in comics, on radio and on screen for films and television, by actors including Albert Finney, Sir Peter Ustinov, Sir Ian Holm, Alfred Molina and David Suchet who played the eponymous hero in the television series from 1989. He recently bade audiences an emotional farewell as series 13 of the classic series concluded with his demise in Christie's dramatic farewell, Curtain.
Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie's grandson and chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd, said: "I am so pleased that Robert Powell has agreed to play Poirot. His appearance will be the icing on the cake of a real treat for all those around the country who go to see the play."
Tickets for Black Coffee, which opens for six nights on February 17, are available from the Regent box office, on 0844 871 7649 or at www.atgtickets/com/stoke.