Blog: John le Carre - An Evening with George Smiley

There is nothing like reading a well-written book by an intelligent and knowledgeable author. Through into the mix lots of espionage, cultural references and a subtle British humour, and you get an incredible reading experience. And that is John le Carré’s books in the nutshell.  

John le Carre

 

John le Carré is a British author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and '60s, he worked for both the Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service. His third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), became an international best-seller and remains one of his best-known works. Following the success of this novel, he left MI6 to become a full-time author. In 2011, he was awarded the Goethe Medal.

I didn’t know that John le Carre did any public appearance, as he is of a rather advanced age, but the moment I heard of this presentation, I knew I had to go and see it. It was broadcasted live by Cineplex on October 25, 2017.

Trailer

 

Synopsis

 

Captured live from London's Royal Festival Hall, join us for a celebration of one of the world’s greatest writers as he shares the secrets behind the creation of his most beloved character. From his extraordinary Cold War novels – such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – to his powerful descriptions of the arms trade in The Night Manager, and the War on Terror in A Most Wanted Man, the writing of John le Carre has come to define the last half century. In this one-off event, the author discusses the full breadth of his career, and reflects on the continuing story of his most famous creation, the tubby, bespectacled spy, George Smiley. Coinciding with the publication date of his new novel, A Legacy of Spies, the event will include readings from the book by the author. The novel sees the return of some of le Carre’s most iconic Cold War characters, including George Smiley and his trusted lieutenant, Peter Guillam, as their past comes back to claim them in the present. With a rare question and answer session, this will be an unmissable opportunity to experience one of the foremost chroniclers of our age, direct and in his own words. In support of MSF, the leading emergency medical humanitarian aid organisation, John le Carre is donating his speaker’s fee, and the producers of the live cinema broadcast, The Ink Factory, are donating their share of the profits to the charity.

 

My experience

 

The theatre was only half full with, predictably, people far older than me (I find it rather refreshing to be the youngest in the room). Right before the start, a Cineplex representative came into the auditorium and announced a one-question quiz. The prize was the new George Smiley book, “A Legacy of Spies”.

 

The question asked was “What is the latest book by John le Carre?”. I did a double take, as I am sure many in the audience, as nobody expected to be asked a question with such an obvious answer, so I didn’t say a thing. Someone in the audience yelled out the title of the book, and we had our winner.

 

Except, that person already had a copy of “A Legacy of Spies”.

 

The Cineplex rep was stuck - he had to do the giveaway but he ran out of questions - so a gentleman in the audience voiced the question for him.

 

Somebody answered it, and the Cineplex rep was ready to hand over the price. Except - that person also already owned a copy.

 

Can you guess what happened next?

The helpful gentleman asked the audience another question.

It was also answered by someone who already had the book.

 

We all were starting to giggle hysterically, because it was just too good. There were, perhaps, only about 50 people in the audience, and most of them have already purchased and read the book that was being given as a price. But since there were more than one people who didn’t have a copy, the rep couldn’t just give it to somebody.

 

To be honest, I didn’t even try to participate. I am not good with quizes and the questions concerned the George Smiley books that I haven’t read yet (I also have a feeling that I was spoiled certain things from the Karla trilogy), but I was enjoying the show a lot!

 

The fourth question came up, and finally an elderly lady next to me answered it with a help of her friend. The game was over. The Cineplex rep thanked everyone for an incredible entertainment and especially the person who stepped in with his questions (his questions were so deep, that they reminded me of my late professor of XX Century World Literature).

 

Finally, the show began.

 

The first part had John le Carre talk in extensive detail of his writing journey, how he came up with the character of George Smiley, as well as his own experience in intelligent service in UK and his work abroad. He also read small bits from “A Legacy of Spies” and talked about certain characters in detail. He mentioned several actors who portrayed George Smiley and Peter Guillam in various adaptations. (He even mentioned Benedict Cumberbatch in 2011 movie version of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and how his movie character was different from the book - which is something that I am still on the fence about.)

 

His hour long presentation is interrupted by interviews with several actors and producers: Tom Hiddleston and Olivia Colman (The Night Manager, 2016), Simon Russell Beale (who narrated The Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas: BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatization), Michael Jayston (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (miniseries)), and some others whom I, unfortunately, did not remember by the name.

The second part of the broadcast was a Q&A session with John, which was run by Jon Snow.

 

It was a delightful evening overall. I left Cineplex itching to read the first novel about George Smiley, “Call for the Dead”, as soon as possible. So far, I have only read “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “The Night Manager”. But I can’t wait to get my hands on more of le Carre’s books. If anything, this broadcast got me even more into the spy novels set during the Cold War.

 

Buy the latest book

A Legacy Of Spies

 

My book reviews

 

Links

 

  • https://www.johnlecarre.com/
  • https://www.cineplex.com/Movie/john-le-carre-an-evening-with-george-smiley

 

Theatre Blog: The plays I want to see (Fall 2017 - Spring 2018) - National Theatre Live

So far, this year has been absolutely great on all National Theatre Live broadcasts. There were a lot of plays that I loved and would happily watch more than once. I know that I am a bit behind on reviews here, but since I found information about upcoming broadcasts at Cineplex website, I just had to share!

Yerma - National Theatre Live

September 21, 2017 | 2h 00m

GENRE: Drama, Stage

DIRECTOR: Simon Stone (Director), Federico García Lorca (Playwright)

CAST: Billie Piper

SYNOPSIS

The incredible Billie Piper (Penny Dreadful, Great Britain) returns in her award-winning role. A young woman is driven to the unthinkable by her desperate desire to have a child in Simon Stone’s radical production of Lorca’s achingly powerful masterpiece. The unmissable theatre phenomenon sold out at the Young Vic and critics call it ‘an extraordinary theatrical triumph’ (The Times) and ‘stunning, searing, unmissable’ (Mail on Sunday). Billie Piper’s lead performance is described as ‘spellbinding’ (The Evening Standard), ‘astonishing’ (iNews) and ‘devastatingly powerful’ (The Daily Telegraph). Set in contemporary London, Piper’s portrayal of a woman in her thirties desperate to conceive builds with elemental force to a staggering, shocking, climax. Please note that this broadcast does not have an interval.

Links:

My comments: I have already purchased the ticket for this broadcast. I am very excited to see Billie Piper on stage, whom I really liked in Doctor Who. And this time I swear, I will read the play before watching it.

 

Follies - National Theatre Live

November 16, 2017 | 3h 30m

GENRE: Musical, Stage

DIRECTOR: Dominic Cooke

CAST: Imelda Staunton, Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee

SYNOPSIS:

Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical is staged for the first time at the National Theatre and broadcast live to cinemas. New York, 1971. There’s a party on the stage of the Weismann Theatre. Tomorrow the iconic building will be demolished. Thirty years after their final performance, the Follies girls gather to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves. Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton play the magnificent Follies in this dazzling new production. Featuring a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, it’s directed by Dominic Cooke (The Comedy of Errors). Winner of Academy, Tony, Grammy and Olivier awards, Sondheim’s previous work includes A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George.

Links:

My comments: I am not familiar with this story but I am excited to see Imelda Staunton on stage again. After watching “Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (read my review here), I developed a new level of appreciation for Imelda. She was terrific in that play, so I can’t wait to see this production.

 

Young Marx - National Theatre Live

December 7, 2017 | 3h 40m

GENRE: Comedy, Stage

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Hytner

CAST: Rory Kinnear, Oliver Chris

SYNOPSIS:

Rory Kinnear (The Threepenny Opera, Penny Dreadful, Othello) is Marx and Oliver Chris (Twelfth Night, Green Wing) is Engels, in this new comedy written by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman. Broadcast live from The Bridge Theatre, London, the production is directed by Nicholas Hytner and reunites the creative team behind Broadway and West End hit comedy One Man, Two Guvnors. 1850, and Europe’s most feared terrorist is hiding in Dean Street, Soho. Broke, restless and horny, the thirty-two-year-old revolutionary is a frothing combination of intellectual brilliance, invective, satiric wit, and child-like emotional illiteracy. Creditors, spies, rival revolutionary factions and prospective seducers of his beautiful wife all circle like vultures. His writing blocked, his marriage dying, his friend Engels in despair at his wasted genius, his only hope is a job on the railway. But there’s still no one in the capital who can show you a better night on the piss than Karl Heinrich Marx.

Links:

My comments: Can’t say I am very interested in the story of Karl Marx, but Rory Kinnear is a terrific actor. I have seen him in The Threepenny Opera and Othello (both by NT) and I know that this is going to be a great play!

 

Hamlet - National Theatre Live ENCORE

March 1, 2018 | 3h 25m

Links:

My comments: Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch - what more can I say? I have seen it twice already but will watch it again, and again, and again.

 

 

 

 

Julius Caesar - National Theatre Live

March 22, 2018 | 3h 00m

GENRE: Stage

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Hytner

CAST: Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, David Calder, David Morrissey

SYNOPSIS:

Ben Whishaw (The Danish Girl, Skyfall, Hamlet) and Michelle Fairley (Fortitude, Game of Thrones) play Brutus and Cassius, David Calder (The Lost City of Z, The Hatton Garden Job) plays Caesar and David Morrissey (The Missing, Hangmen, The Walking Dead) is Mark Antony. Broadcast live from The Bridge Theatre, London. Caesar returns in triumph to Rome and the people pour out of their homes to celebrate. Alarmed by the autocrat’s popularity, the educated élite conspire to bring him down. After his assassination, civil war erupts on the streets of the capital. Nicholas Hytner’s production will thrust the audience into the street party that greets Caesar’s return, the congress that witnesses his murder, the rally that assembles for his funeral and the chaos that explodes in its wake.

Links:

My comments: Ben Whishaw on stage. What else do you need? I fell in love with Ben as Freddie Lyon in the British TV series ‘The Hour’. I believe, it will be the first time I see him on stage, and I can not wait!

 

 

This is all that has been announced for the broadcast in foreseeable future. As always, keep an eye on Cineplex and NTLive.com websites for more information. (And, no, I have no affiliation with either companies - I am just an avid theatre goer ♥).

Check out my play reviews here.

TIFF 2013 - 12 Years A Slave

Originally written: SEPTEMBER 6, 2013

 

"12 Years A Slave" kicked off today at 6pm (in fact it started almost an hour later) at Princess of Wales theatre. I got there around 5pm in the hopes of if not getting a ticket, but at least seeing Benedict Cumberbatch.

I was in the line. The weather was nice and much warmer compared to yesterday. The line was on John street, so once again I had no view of the red carpet. And the fans’ screams were deafened by some techno music playing at the venue right behind us.

The line was not moving by 6pm. I was told that there were about 110 people before me. The chances of getting in were estimated as 50/50.

By 6.30pm the line was moving pretty fast, I got my token (as well as two lovely ladies ahead of me) and we were told that Brad Pitt was inside, as well as Benedict (I was watching twitter and live feeds meanwhile, so I was aware of it), and we might actually see them.

Then we queued briefly before the entrance. The lovely TIFF lady in blue dress said that we were all very lucky, because the whole line was getting in! And there were about 50 people after me! Wow!

We rushed inside, got our tickets, and were walking up the stairs to the balcony, as we heard some fan screams outside. One of the girls ahead of me rushed to the window and moaned that it was Benedict. I didn’t see him outside the window and I was on my way up. :(

 

The film has started by the time I got into my seat, but I didn’t miss anything. It was around 7pm, I believe.

12 Years A Slave is a very powerful movie based on true story. The acting of every single one of the cast members was flawless. I am absolutely sure that this movie will be nominated for best actor, best actress and best movie and probably director as well.

It is a very moving story, quite graphic (not overly so though) sometimes. I kept my eyes covered at some violent parts (e.g., slaves were abused) - couldn’t really watch it. It was really vivid. Couple of funny parts. The audience reacted quite strongly to beatings and emotional moments. The funniest reaction was probably when Brad Pitt’s character said that he was not “from these lands” but from Canada. People clapped.

By the end of the movie a couple of ladies were sniffling behind me. I can totally understand it, because it was a very, very emotional scene.

The end of the movie was met by huge wave of applause. Then we applauded again after the credits. When the producer came into the stage there was a standing ovation. Then rest of the cast came out (except for Ben) and got their round of applause.

No idea why they call it Q&A though if there were only 2-3 quite boring and predictable questions and only a couple of people talked. Brad Pitt was there. I admit of not being his hugest fan (or any fan at all) and I was pretty far at the balcony, so I could barely see him. The only thing that I remember him saying is that if it was his last movie, he is fine with it, meaning that it is a great movie. (Sorry don’t really remember his exact words.) And the producer said they were not actors but artists. Which is really true.

Benedict was quite lovely in his role of Mister Ford. Period drama suit him. Thank goodness, he is one of the good guys. Somehow I was not really surprised, although I found it funny: Benedict and Brad - good guys, Michael Fassbender - a bad guy. No surprise here, eh? ;)

I am amazed at my luck of getting tickets to two very anticipated and hot premieres. I am a bit sad that I didn’t see Benedict. He didn’t stay for Q&A afterwards and he would not be in Toronto for August: Osage County premiere on Monday.

Probably that was my only chance to see the man (since he is not coming to Toronto for Crimson Peak shooting next year - but the fact that it is Hiddleston who steps into his shoes is quite extraordinary) but I am still more happy about getting in to see the movie.

Although next time I might do the opposite - stalk red carpet and watch movies later after world premiere. Because each gala ticket at TIFF costs $45. Ouch.

Tomorrow I plan to rush for Only Lovers Left Alive. Hopefully will get in with no problem, since it is not a gala. I have a ticket for gala opening for Don Hemingway on Sunday (although I am honestly not sure I want to see it). I will attempt to get a rush ticket for August: Osage County on Monday and Kill Your Darlings on Tuesday. I have a gala ticket for Cold Eyes next Friday and Violette (which is not a premiere) next Saturday.

Hopefully I will get to see all those too! Stay tuned! :D

TIFF 2013 - The Fifth Estate Premiere

Originally written: SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 ©DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved

“Courage is contagious”

 

I admit I feel a bit overwhelmed at the moment. I have two reasons for that. (Although it is almost one and the same.)

One. I was lucky to get a rush ticket for “The Fifth Estate”.

Two. The movie itself.

Let me start with how I got the ticket. It is my second TIFF and the first time I rushed a ticket. I have never done that before. I tried to google it, I asked around. People kept saying quite opposite things: some said I should be there at least 30 minutes early, others - no less than 3 hours for a gala. Some people said that there would be only 35-40 tickets, others - over a hundred.

I was confused. So this is my experience, hope somebody would find it helpful.

I live near Elgin theatre, so after work I rushed home and then was at the venue at 5pm - one and a half hours before the start. There were two screenings at one location: “The Fifth Estate” at 6.30pm and “Blue is The Warmest Colour” at 7pm. (I wanted to see both movies, but Estate was my priority.)

The rush line started at BMO on Yonge and then turned the corner to Queen street. When I arrived there, there was a pretty long line and I felt a bit sad, because I thought there was NO way everyone would get in.

The line was for both movies. Surprisingly, almost everyone around me wanted to see Blue and not Estate. (I really hope I will catch that movie later.)

One of TIFF staff members did a count (twice). First, around the time I came. Second, around 6pm. By the second count we were told that there are about 85 people ahead of us for “The Fifth Estate” and about 30 - for “Blue Is The Warmest Colour”. It seemed like the odds were against me, but we were told that it almost impossible to predict the amount of tickets that would be released.

Around 10-15 minutes after 6pm the queue started to move. At 6.30pm we rounded the corner to Yonge street. People around me were saying that the movie must have started already. Others were saying that it was the first premiere, so they would probably delay it.

Then one of the volunteers called everyone for Estate to move forward and queue closer to the theatre, where we were given tokens and then literary ran to the ticket office.

Meanwhile there was a red carpet and paparazzi waiting for the celebrities. I didn’t expect Benedict to show up because there was another screening at Roy Thompson Hall at 8pm that he seemed most probably to want to attend. And as far as I know he never showed up at Elgin. It is difficult to say who did for Estate, besides the producer.

I was in the line to the box office and I had a very slim view of the entrance. Flashes were going off - somebody must have arrived. I admit at complete ignorance. I didn’t recognize anyone who was walking through - they might have been for the second movie. I believe the Estate cast was only at RTH.

There was a nice elder gentleman in the line beside me. He asked me if I was there for The Fifth Estate. He asked me if I knew who Benedict Cumberbatch was and if I saw Sherlock. He said he really enjoyed Sherlock. And then asked me if I had seen Benedict in some other series/movies. I admit I was so distracted and excited about the whole buzz and being almost there that I didn’t get what he was talking about. And only later I realized that he might have been talking about Hawking. I am not sure though. Too bad I didn’t have chance to talk more to that gentleman. I always enjoy discussing Sherlock with everyone.

That gentleman also seemed to be an experienced TIFF goer, because while I was being all excited and confused about the crowd of people who were rushing to get the tickets, he managed to squeeze to the box window and get the ticket before me and a couple of people ahead of me. I hope he enjoyed the movie as much as I did :)

I got my ticket for $45 (adult price for galas) and rushed inside. I guess we all were lucky because the movie started later. They showed a short video devoted to Roger Ebert (late film critic) and then the movie producer talked briefly about “The Fifth Estate”. The movie started at 7pm.

I admit I couldn’t believe my luck until the movie started. I was so happy (and still am!) that I was so lucky to get a ticket!

Now the movie itself. (Not really spoilers, but watch out nevertheless.)

I have heard about Wikileaks, but I didn’t know anything about Julian Assange. This is what I liked to do the most - go and see a movie/play or start watching a TV show knowing nothing about it beforehand. I liked to be surprised. I hate spoilers.

I did see the trailer, but that was it.

To put it simply, I loved the movie. Benedict is quite brilliant as Assange, he doesn’t even sound as himself! Except for one scene at the bar, where he did sound mostly like himself. Otherwise everything from accent to the voice pitch and gestures was really different.

At some point I even forgot that he was not naturally blond - he looked so authentic.

Quite a few lovely jokes in the movie, the ending seemed to be open, but it is to be expected since the story is still going on. Several tearful moments - great acting from everyone. I admit that I didn’t know whom I sympathized with the most.

I think the best thing about this movie is that they are not pointing fingers. They are showing this story from both sides and there is no black or white. Julian seems to be the good guy, but his actions bring consequences that hurt other good people, who have families and children, who are innocent. And vice verse.

The ending is perfect, because nothing is definite. And part of the responsibility for deciding what is truth or what is not is put on the viewers.

It was a real treat. I encourage everyone to watch it. Benedict is amazing as Assange, and I really hope he gets some reward for playing him.

 

I saw a couple of photos of the man from RTH posted to twitter - looks like people had fun there. Hope some of you got the chance to see the man or/and the movie. I didn’t expect to see Benedict himself, I focused on seeing the movie and I am really glad I went to Elgin and not to RTH. I will try to rush tickets for other movies on my must watch list. Hopefully I get lucky again, but The Fifth Estate was my priority and I am so happy that I got in!

Good luck, everyone, and have fun!