The Complete Smiley

Simon Russell Beale

BBC Radio 4 presents dramatisations of all eight of John le Carré's George Smiley novels, with Simon Russell Beale playing George Smiley throughout.

“Simon Russell Beale is unique. No living actor can match his understanding of language, or his interpretation of character. He will make a superb Smiley, and I feel deeply honoured.”
John le Carré

Jeremy Howe, Radio 4's Commissioning Editor for Drama, says, "For me The Complete Smiley is the most ambitious drama we have embarked upon in my time at Radio 4. Smiley is one of the great characters of 20th century fiction and the way he threads, weaves, ducks and dives his way through the complexities of the Cold War has given us some of the century's most enthralling stories. Be prepared to spend a lot of your Saturday and Sunday afternoons glued to the radio."

Recruited into the "Circus" in the late 1920s, when he might so easily have become an Oxford don, George Smiley spends the 1930s and early 1940s working undercover in Nazi Germany in daily fear of betrayal and death.

Recalled in 1943, he marries - to general astonishment - the beautiful but eternally unfaithful Lady Ann Sercomb.

With the end of the war, he returns to Oxford for a life of scholarly contemplation among the lesser German poets.

But rising tension between Soviet Russia and the West draw him back to the Circus as a Cold War warrior.

Listen to John le Carré talk about Smiley.

Coming up in the season

  • The Complete Smiley

    Saturday Play: Call For the Dead

    2.30-4.00pm, Saturday 23 May 2009

    London, the late 1950s. A disenchanted Smiley is engaged in the routine job of security vetting. When a Foreign Office civil servant commits suicide not long after being cleared of Communist sympathies, Smiley investigates - and uncovers a deadly conspiracy with its roots in his own wartime past.
    Dramatised by Robert Forrest.

  • The Complete Smiley

    Saturday Play: A Murder of Quality

    2.30-4.00pm, Saturday 30 May 2009

    A public school in the early 1960s. When the wife of one of the masters is found bludgeoned to death, Smiley, out of loyalty to an old friend, finds himself investigating her death - an investigation that lifts the lid on a world of hidden passions and murderous hatreds.
    Dramatised by Shaun McKenna.

  • The Complete Smiley

    The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

    3.00-4.00pm, Sundays 5, 12, 19 July 2009, repeated Saturdays 9.00-10.00pm

    The height of the Cold War. It is 1962, only months after the building of the Berlin Wall. Alec Leamas, a hard-working, hard-drinking British intelligence officer, finds his network in East Berlin is in complete tatters. All his agents are either on the run or dead, victims of the ruthlessly efficient East German counter-intelligence officer Hans-Dieter Mundt. Leamas is recalled to London.
    Dramatised by Robert Forrest.

  • The Complete Smiley

    Classic Serial: The Looking Glass War

    3.00-4.00pm, Sundays 20, 27 September 2009, repeated Saturdays 9.00-10.00pm

    When word reaches The Department, an ailing section of British military intelligence, that Soviet missiles are being installed close to the West German border, former spy Fred Leiser is lured back from retirement to investigate. But the world has changed since The Department's glory days during the Second World War. The harsh realities of the Cold War now prevail, and there is no place for heroes.
    Dramatised by Shaun McKenna.

  • The Complete Smiley

    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

    3.00-4.00pm, Sundays 29 November, 6, 13 December 2009, repeated Saturdays 9.00-10.00pm

    Part 1 of the Karla Trilogy. George Smiley, wrestling with retirement and disillusionment, is summoned to a secret meeting with a member of the Cabinet Office. Evidence has emerged that the Circus has been infiltrated at the highest level by a Russian agent. "Find the mole, George. Clean the stables. Do whatever is necessary." Reluctantly Smiley agrees, and so embarks on a dark journey into his past - a past filled with love, duplicity and betrayal.
    Dramatised by Shaun McKenna.

  • The Complete Smiley

    The Honourable Schoolboy

    3.00-4.00pm, Sundays 24, 31 January, 7 February 2010, repeated Saturdays 9.00-10.00pm

    Part 2 of the Karla Trilogy. Smiley, now head of the Circus, must rebuild trust in the shattered organisation. He is also determined to destroy his nemesis, Karla, and his spy networks. He recruits Jerry Westerby, occasional spy, occasional news reporter, full-time romantic - The Honourable Schoolboy of the title - and despatches him to the Far East, where, amidst the corruption and decay of former colonies, a new battle is about to begin.
    Dramatised by Shaun McKenna.

  • The Complete Smiley

    Classic Serial: Smiley's People

    3.00-4.00pm, Sundays 11, 18, 25 April 2010, repeated Saturdays 9.00-10.00pm

    Part 3 of the Karla Trilogy. When a Russian émigré is found murdered on Hampstead Heath, Smiley is called out of retirement to exorcise some Cold War ghosts from his clandestine past. What follows is Smiley the human being at his most vulnerable and Smiley the case officer at his most brilliant; and it takes to a thrilling conclusion his career-long, serpentine battle with the enigmatic and ruthless Russian spymaster Karla
    Dramatised by Robert Forrest.

  • The Complete Smiley

    The Secret Pilgrim

    3.00-4.00pm, Sundays 13, 20, 27 June 2010, repeated Saturdays 9.00-10.00pm

    The Berlin Wall is down, the Cold War is over, but the world's second oldest profession is very much alive. Smiley accepts an invitation to dine with the eager young men and women of the Circus' latest intake; and over coffee and brandy, by flickering firelight, he beguilingly offers them his personal thoughts on espionage past, present and future. In doing so, he prompts one of his former Circus colleagues into a searching examination of his own eventful secret life.
    Dramatised by Robert Forrest.

John le Carré on Smiley

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