I, Spry to infiltrate ASIO history

Russian intelligence, the Petrov defection, the Cold War... it's all part of ABC's next dramatised documentary.

ptvA little more info has emerged on ABC’s new dramatised doco I, Spry, from the makers of Who Killed Dr Bogle and Mrs Chandler?

Tony Llewellyn-Jones (Curtin, GP), will star as Charles Spry, who attempted to reshape ASIO after fumbled counter-espionage operations against Russian intelligence and a local spy ring. Publicity notes indicate, “The controversial, election-influencing Petrov defections of 1954 gives him unprecedented power. But Spry soon finds himself in a “wilderness of mirrors”, where nobody is who or what they seem.”

Produced for ABC TV by Anna Grieve and Peter Butt from Blackwattle Films it has a cast of over 50 players, including 20 actors, cabaret performers and extras from the Russian community.

The shoot to begin next year includes Sydney locations where real operations were carried out, including an apartment block where Vladimir Petrov defected over a meal of oysters.

Stuart Menzies, ABC TV, Head of Documentaries said; “Peter is a consummate storyteller. It’s wonderful to be working with him again to bring this extraordinary tale to life. Along with Who Killed Dr Bogle and Mrs Chandler? and The Prime Minister is Missing, this will make an important triptych about the history of our times.”

Peter Butt said; “Thanks to a mountain of newly-released documents, this film goes far beyond what we’ve been fed about spies and espionage in Australia during the Cold War.

“Not only do we find that ASIO bugged phones and carried out surveillance on Soviet sympathisers, but we discover that the most important spies and intelligence agents in Australia during the period were women and that both a Labor Leader of the Opposition and a Liberal Prime Minister were considered security risks.

“If it weren’t all so serious, I would have loved to turn it into a musical” (note: in fact a concert version of The Petrov Affair musical was staged during the 1980s in Melbourne).

The series will air on ABC in 2010.

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