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Anders Thulin (Malmo, Sweden)

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (BBC Audio)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (BBC Audio)
by John Le Carre
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £9.53

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very fine production - recommended, 19 July 2010
This is the second radio dramatization of Tinker, Tailor -- the first one appeared in 1989, with Bernard Hepton as Smiley.

This recording from 2010 is also three-hour performance, though in this case BBC has been kind enough to keep closer the original radio format, with announcements and credits at the beginning and end of each CD.

It is without question a very good performance. I can't fault Simon Russell Beale as Smiley in any important respect, not would I wish to. My personal highlights are: Ann Smiley (played by Anna Chancellor) who gets a reasonably prominent place as a voice in Smiley's head, where she undoubtedly belongs; Bill Haydon (played by Michael Feast), who gets a slight dash of snobbery, which I think suits the role; and Maggie Steed as Connie Sachs.

It's fairly close to the book -- in some places, I could swear they are reading straight from the pages, as I recognize familiar passages. And I have now listened to it three times, and I have not yet found a single rustle of scripts that shouldn't be there, although I must admit the performance sometimes make
me forget to listen critically.

So ... highly recommended.

Yet ...

For those who already know the older version with Bernard Hepton it is probably fair to say that I still rank that slightly higher, overall. I'm not entirely sure why.

Perhaps it is that it didn't require a narrator (which function is here taken on by Peter Guillam played by Ewan Bailey, who sometimes tells us things that Guillam actually wouldn't have known), or that it was played out in 'straight time', so there was no need for flashbacks, as here. Or perhaps is it that several of the minor characters, like Ricky Tarr's baby-sitter Fawn, or Registry janitor Alwyn, or Max, Jim Prideaux's babysitter in Brno, or even Jerry Westerby, have been cut out, perhaps to make place for the sequence where Smiley confronts Karla in a Delhi prison, a scene that was left out from that older production altogether.

And the war party when the Circus top brass are trying to figure out if and how Peter Guillam has been in contact with the suspected defector Ricky Tarr is reduced almost completely to Percy Alleline (Bill Paterson) haranguing Guillam. It has an almost minimalistic feel to it - if I recall, the book and the DVD had something like eight people around that table.

And just possibly when Prideaux asks Smiley about Gerald - a name Prideaux wouldn't have known. But I'm probably much too close to the book, and that's why these comparatively small details grate a little on my ear.

But this is just minor nitpicking -- I give it four out of five, and recommend it highly to anyone who wants to see (in the mind's eye) and hear Tinker, Tailor from a slightly different perspective than before.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 18, 2011 11:43 AM BST

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Starring Bernard Hepton as George Smiley (BBC Radio Collection)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Starring Bernard Hepton as George Smiley (BBC Radio Collection)
by John Le Carre
Edition: Audio Cassette

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting spin on the theme, 26 Oct 2006
This radio dramatization was released in 1989, and presumably
also broadcast at about that time, approximately 10 years after
the TV miniseries with Alec Guinness appeared. (The liner
notes are silent on this question.)

The dramatization is by René Basilico, who also have written
adaptations of Aliens in the Mind and Travels with my Aunt,
and later also dramatized the sequel Smiley's People.
Bernard Hepton, who played Toby Esterhase in the TV series,
leads as George Smiley. The remaining the actors are largely
unfamiliar to me: James Grout (as Percy Alleline), Charles Kay
(Toby Esterhase), Edward de Souza (Bill Haydon), William Simons
(Roy Bland), Christian Rodska (Ricky Tarr), Alan MacNaughtan
(as Control), Douglas Blackwell (Peter Guillam), etc. but are
probably reasonably familiar to british TV viewers.

The production comes on two audio cassettes of approximately
45 minutes each side for a total of 3 hours. There are no obvious
breaks in the performance, so the usual on and off announcements
must have been removed. This makes it somewhat difficult to listen
to: 45 minutes is either too little or too much.

I was pleasantly surprised how unfamiliar this dramatisation seems:
the writer has used somewhat different material from the book,
structured it more sequentially, and also added some minor
variation to help the listener over some of the problems
associated with a radio performance.
It stays closer to the book, too, in some respects: Max, Jim's
babysitter in Czechoslovakia, is here, as is Millie McCraig, the
housekeeper of Merlin's safehouse, and the owner of the house
where Ricky Tarr is kept hidden, Mrs Brimley, takes on more
personality than in the TV series and even the book.

It's difficult to imagine anyone else than Alec Guinness as George
Smiley now. Bernard Hepton seems a bit more active in the role,
which helps make this something more than just a repeat. The other
actors are competent enough, even if the roles of Toby and Ricky seem
a shade too close to the TV performances. Percy Alleline, on the other
hand, is a quite different take than the self-satisfied smoothie of
Michael Aldridge.

On the whole, a very nice performance, and very well worth listening
to. The only drawback I can think of is the absence of original episode

Have His Carcase: BBC Radio 4 Full Cast Dramatisation (Radio Collection)
Have His Carcase: BBC Radio 4 Full Cast Dramatisation (Radio Collection)
by Dorothy L. Sayers
Edition: Audio CD

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite successful, 17 Aug 2006
The BBC production was originally broadcast in 1981 in 6 episodes, dramatized by Alistair Beaton. (It has been previously released on audio cassette in 2000 -- this release is from 2003). Here it appears on 2 rather full CDs, with a total running time of about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

The three main characters are Lord Peter Wimsey (played by Ian Carmichael), Harriet Vane (Maria Aitken), and Inspector Umplety (Nigel Stock). The rest of the cast is also fairly recognizable: Warren Clarke, Isabel Dean, and Betty Marsden among others.

The CD carries a notice that it is recommended by the Dorothy L. Sayers Society. I can't make out why -- I suspect it may be a blanket approval of the whole set.

Personal impressions

The broadcasted episodes have been somewhat cut to make it fit on 2 CDs. The original episode structure with opening and closing announcements and cast presentation has been removed entirely, except for some short signature music at the beginning and end of each CD. I presume that no dramatic material has been cut.

This makes it rather difficult to listen to the story episode by episode, the way it was originally designed and produced, and the way I prefer to listen to radio theatre. Instead I found myself getting a bit antsy after about 40 minutes, wondering if it hadn't gone on for too long, and I decided to break where no break was originally planned.

As the track structure on the CDs turned out to consists of 'mini-acts' (20 on one CD, 21 on the other), it was a bit of a bother to find my way back to where I left off the previous evening. The track titles printed in the included leaflet do not give very useful hints to the listener (Track 12: "And that, Inspector, is why ...", or Track 13: "and I think you're treating ..." are good examples).

This is inconsiderate user engineering, and rather detracts from the listening experience unless, of course, the listener can do 1-hour-plus listening sessions.

Little needs to be said about the script, I think: it is impossible to compress the book into six half-hour episodes. Beaton has mainly gone for the mystery, and the very few cases where the growing relationship between Wimsey and Vane is allowed to appear, it feels slightly out of place. Only one single proposal of marriage remains!

As to production and recording, it should be repeated that the production is from 1981, and so feels a little old-fashioned to my ears. In a few places too many it is obvious that the actors are turning script pages, and in one place what should have been an outdoor sea scene is recorded with an in-door ambience, with an almost palpable ceiling above splashing water.

Acting seems reasonable, but I seldom forgot that I was listening to radio drama. Betty Marsden's landlady was a notable exception: she made the story come alive for a few minutes. Maria Aitken does a rather dry and occasionally mechanic Harriet Vane, but as she plays mainly against Ian Carmichael, who turns his Wimsey up a notch or two for radio, and Nigel Stock's west-country Police Inspector, this may be a contrast effect. I suspect it is also because the book portrays Harriet in ways that are difficult to dramatize for radio.

I don't think I will listen to this much again: perhaps on a train or a bus, and then only if I was unable to find the book. It seems mainly useful as an appetite-whetter for the TV series (with Edward Peterbridge as Wimsey), or for the full-length audio-book reading by Ian Carmichael, and ultimately for the book itself.

Murder on the Orient Express: Starring John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot (BBC Radio Collection)
Murder on the Orient Express: Starring John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot (BBC Radio Collection)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £11.83

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly enjoyable, 3 Jun 2006
This BBC production was originally broadcast in 1992, and appears

here on 2 CDs with a running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes.

The main characters are played by John Moffatt (as Hercule Poirot),

André Maranne (Monsieur Bouc, director of the Wagon-Lit company),

and Peter Polycarpou (Dr. Constantine). The remaining cast has many

known names: I note particularly Joss Ackland, Sylvia Syms,

Francesca Annis, and Sian Phillips. And Desmond Llewelyn does a somewhat

less obsequious Masterman than John Gielgud did in the film.

(There's an irritating misprint in the CD leaflet, where the role of Miss Ohlsson

is given as 'Ohisson'.)

The dramatisation is by Michael Bakewell, and is better than I expected:

all important parts of the original story have been retained, even if some

have been telescoped to save time. On or two additions have been made, I

think: I don't remember that the allusion to Mr. Harris was explained quite

as well as it is here, for instance. But I have not found anything important I miss

from the book.

Production is also better than I hoped for, with lots of supporting sound effects

that tend to establish the environment to the listener, though in a few cases the audio

perspective feels slightly wrong. I did not detect any intrusive script rustles

on first listing and that is a good sign. The considerable use of accents (mainly

French, U.S. and Italian) feels a bit laboured and occasionally breaks up,

and as this affects the main character, I wish it could have been lessened.

If I have any complaints, they are about the CD design. In order to fit the

production on two CD's, all episodes have been joined into one, and, presumably,

some incidental piano music (composed and performed by Michael Haslam) dropped.

(A few pieces remain, but feel rather out of place.) This compression also causes

a few collision effects when a dramatic end of one episode is immediately

followed by a short recapitulation in the next one. This rather destroys the original

design of the dramatisation. It also makes it difficult for the listener to break off

at natural places in the performance.

It is nevertheless a very enjoyable production, and I'm certain I will return to


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