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New Year's Honours: David Suchet and Sheila Hancock recognised

David Suchet

Story by Jack Foley

ACTORS David Suchet and Sheila Hancock lead the list of stars of stage and screen who have been recognised in the year’s New Year Honours.

Suchet, 64, and Hancock, 77, both become CBEs, for services to their profession. The former is best known for playing Agatha Christie’s famed detective Hercule Poirot in the long-running TV series, but has enjoyed a career spanning more than 40 years.

Hancock, meanwhile, is the widow of Inspector Morse star John Thaw, who has appeared in numerous plays and TV sitcoms. Most recently, she was seen this year in hit West End musical Sister Act.

Joining them on the honours list are the likes of renowned artist turned filmmaker Steve McQueen, influential record producer Trevor Horn, sculptor Richard Wentworth and dance choreographer Wayne McGregor.

David Suchet

Suchet, who was appointed a CBE for services to drama, was most recently seen on Christmas Day playing the Belgian sleuth Poirot in a new version of Murder On The Orient Express.

Earlier this year, he appeared in the West End in Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons and, prior to that, appeared alongside Richard Dreyfuss in the Kevin Spacey directed Complicit at the Old Vic in 2009. Read our review

Among the other characters he has brought to life during an exceptional career include Cardinal Wolsey, media mogul Robert Maxwell and Antonio Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus.

Yet it is for his portrayal of Poirot that the London-born actor is most recognised and which he readily admits has given him a lot of pleasure in playing.

Indeed, such is his affinity for the character that he has portrayed him in some 65 Poirot stories, the first of which – The Adventure of the Clapham Cook – was screened back in January 1989.

Born in London in 1946, Suchet is the brother of broadcaster John, but developed a fondness for the entertainment industry at an early age, joining the National Youth Theatre before training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

He subsequently enjoyed a long spell with the Royal Shakespeare Company, during which he played Caliban in The Tempest.

In the ’80s he extended his range and popularity by venturing into TV and playing the title roles in series such as Oppenheimer and Blott On The Landscape, as well as films including The Missionary and Executive Decision alongside Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal.

Among the many previous awards and honours he has received are the Variety Club award for best actor in 1994 after appearing in David Mamet’s Oleanna at the Royal Court theatre, a Critics Circle’ award for his role in Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and a Royal Television Society award for his performance as Augustus Melmotte in the 2002 BBC drama The Way We Live Now.

He was also made an OBE in the Queen’s 2002 Birthday Honours list.

Sheila Hancock

Sheila Hancock

Sheila Hancock, who has also been made a CBE for services to drama, has enjoyed a richly diverse career that ranges from Shakespeare to Carry On comedy.

In recent years, the 77-year-old has reinvented herself as a best-selling author, a West End musical star and a TV talent show judge.

In literary form, she is fondly known for her moving account of her 30-year marriage to John Thaw in the memoir The Two of Us.

Born on the Isle of Wight in 1933, Hancock grew up in London and decided upon a career in the arts in her 20s, making her West End debut in 1958.

She went on to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company in productions of Titus Andronicus and The Winter’s Tale, before landing her first TV break playing Carol in BBC sitcom The Rag Trade in the early ’60s.

She has ventured into cinema, including a role in the 1964 comedy Carry On Cleo as well as – more recently – acclaimed drama The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, but she has found most of her screen success on TV where hits include The Buccaneers, a short stint on EastEnders (as Barbara Owen), Bed Time, Bleak House, Doctor Who and, in 2008, New Tricks and Moving On.

She also featured as a judge on Over The Rainbow, helping Andrew Lloyd Webber find a Dorothy for his upcoming revival of The Wizard of Oz, and continued to indulge her passion for theatre, appearing to widespread acclaim in the hit adaptation of Sister Act as a Mother Superior.

Earlier this month she accepted a lifetime achievement accolade from the Women in Film and Television organisation (WFTV) and, in 1974, was made an OBE – an honour she had to check she was allowed to accept because she is a practising Quaker.

Further film and stage honours

In the film world, costume designer Sandy Powell and film director Andrea Arnold are both appointed OBEs.

Powell, 50, won Oscars for her work on Shakespeare In Love, The Aviator and The Young Victoria, while Arnold directed the critically-acclaimed Red Road, Fish Tank and the Oscar-winning short Wasp.

Burt Kwouk, the 80-year-old actor best known for his recurring role as Cato in The Pink Panther films, has also been made an OBE.

Award-winning actress Harriet Walter is appointed a dame for services to drama.

The 60-year-old, who has appeared in scores of plays, TV series and films, previously became a CBE in 2000.

The niece of actor Christopher Lee, she recently starred in Julian Fellowes’s children’s ghost story From Time to Time, and in the summer enjoyed rave reviews and a Tony award nomination for her portrayal of Elizabeth I in the play Mary Stuart on Broadway.

During her time with the theatre, she has been part of the Royal Shakespeare Company stretching back more than 25 years.

But she has also branched into TV and film, appearing in Babel in 2006 and Atonement in 2007 on the big screen, and in the BBC’s Little Dorrit and ITV’s Law & Order: UK on the small screen.

Trevor Horn and Annie Lennox lead music honours