A BBC Radio 4 fictional dramatization of Léon Theremin’s espionage work in the lead up to the Cold War, written by Melissa Murray. Theremin was originally broadcast as the ‘Saturday Play’ on 3 January 2009 and repeated on 9 October 2010.
Léon Theremin, gifted inventor and reluctant spy, is forced to find a way to bug the US Embassy in London. Now he has to save himself and his former lover from both the CIA and the KGB.
Starring Tom Hollander as Theremin and Kate Ashfield as Alex. Also featured in the cast are Ania Sowinski, Trystan Gravelle, Stephen Critchlow, Malcolm Tierney, Janice Acquah, Jonathan Tafler, Chris Pavlo, and Dan Starkey. Directed by Marc Beeby.
This dramatization is loosely based on the life of the Soviet scientist Lev Theremin. He was the inventor of the first electronic musical instrument that bears his name. His "electronic synthesizer" caused quite a sensation all over the world. Theremin created the Rhythmicon - the first electronic drum machine, the theremin cello and terpsitone.
As for the story, it is fictitious. Theremin wasn't kidnapped by the NKVD. He flew back to the USSR from New York, where he'd fallen in love and married an African American ballet dancer.
But back in the USSR, Theremin was imprisoned and sent to a labour camp where he ... designed eavesdropping devices, one of the most notorious was the Great Seal bug. The 'present' had hung in the U.S. ambassador's study for years before the concealed bug was discovered.
Leo Theremin, or Lev Termen in Russian, was a genius, but sadly little is known about him. There is a documentary directed by S. Martin, which is too inaccurate to refer to, and a brilliant book by A. Glinsky that I can recommend.
The performance was rather laid-back. T. Hollander as Theremin seemed distant and even dismissive at times, in stark contrast to the passionate and sympathetic Anna (Kate Ashfield). It's their relationship that intrigued me. Psychologically, it's a curious play, but do not expect any action.
All in all, I'd say I enjoyed this spy drama.
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