Friday, 21 January 2011

Acting Adventures in the Ukraine

I spent the start of this week in the Ukraine acting.

It was a shoot for a commercial in which I play a cuckoo trapped inside a clock that will air in, of all places, Kazakhstan.

It was a weird experience.

I knew that Ukraine was going to be different from the moment we landed, as soon as the plane thudded onto the runway, the Ukrainians around me were unbuckling seat belts and trying to extract their excessive volume of hand luggage from the overhead racks. British Airways staff resorted to shouting at them to stop it and forcing people to re-do up their seat belts and I noted on the return journey, special voiceovers in Ukrainian came over the Tannoy, their content most certainly related to STAYING IN YOUR FUCKING SEAT YOU MENTAL UKRAINIAN.

In a fit of very British pique I did not remove my seatbelt until the light was switched off, by which time most the Ukrainians were all stood, ready to leave and staring at me as if I were mad.

In my time there I noted a people brusque, rude, slap-dash and corruption-ridden (I witnessed it first hand by traffic police and in the regular efforts to short change me in shops); and a world away from my experience with people in Poland and the Czech Republic. I felt very far away from home in a place a long way East and oddly, very, very Russian. The Cyrillic didn't help I'm sure, neither did the collapsing Khrushchyovka, awful roads, incessant gloom and quite possibly the worst food I've had anywhere in the world.

The shoot itself was a gruelling effort, 19 hours stuck in a Brezhnev era Soviet film studio/nuclear bunker (I kid you not, underneath us was a huge dis-used bunker and warning signs about what to do if you were hit by a nuclear bomb, ie: die) that was patrolled by feral dogs and flat-faced Ukrainian crones.

It was made bearable by the incredible Swedish director, who I've had the real honour of working with before and the excellent Norwegian DOP. And I've no doubt the end product will look awesome and be hilariously funny, in spite of all the breathtaking incompetence, Health and Safety in flagrante (such as chainsawing the set with wild abandon to rapturous applause) and leaking roofs.

If I'm honest, my rather negative tone about my Ukrainian experience may be related to the fact the crew NEARY SET ME ON FUCKING FIRE AND THEN LAUGHED ABOUT IT. I won't go into detail but it involves flame, a massive un-flame-proofed bird suit and the two meeting in unholy unison.

I'm glad I've been, glad to have my first job of the year but also glad to be back home in one piece. I'll leave you with some pictures I took of the dilapidated Communist film studio.


  1. Brezhnev and Marx I can understand - but why the picture of a moustachioed Charlie Brooker?

  2. I thought is was Yozza Hughes in the picture.

    In sounds like you are suffering for your art. I never understand why people rush to stand up and get the lockers open on planes. The staff wont open for doors for a few minutes at least - so relax!

  3. myselecta:

    With leather pants stapled underneath. Perhaps Brooker is not telling us something...


    Frustrates the shit out of me, where do they think they can go? Relax is the key word.

  4. I remember Aeroflotting about in that general area and one of the air-hostesses got out a large headed broom before landing.

    I wondered if it was for some sort of crowd control, but she actually used it to control the large amount of condensation which strangely poured from the overheads as we descended. Not a good feeling.

  5. I'm glad I'm didn't have to fly on anything other than BA.

  6. Well done with the work, getting back alive sounds like it was the challenge. I'll cross Ukraine off this years potential holiday destinations (though it might be all I can afford - if I walk there).

  7. I am chuffed to bits that you give it to the Ukraine. Not that I have anything personal against the Ukraine, but it's refreshing to hear an unabashed giving free from any PC worry. This had me chuckling. Hope you get the ad up on your site when it's ready. On another note, can you remind us of the dates / locale of your premier show (14 March might it be? .... I'm hoping to be able to catch it if I'm lucky enough to be in London). xx

  8. Highlander:

    Cheers mate and seriously, go Skeggy instead.


    Me as a cuckoo will be on this site asap! Our Style is Legendary runs from 14th March to the 2nd April, be awesome if you could come and see it. Website is x


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