Saturday, 29 January 2011

Our Style is Legendary: Trip to Notts (See You on the Ice)


Yesterday, the cast, myself and the director of "Our Style is Legendary" went to Nottingham on a wee trip to explore the locations of the play, re-imagine the memories, get a feel for the place and bond over a few jars.

It was a wonderful day, really wonderful.

Not only did it bring the cast together for the first time (and don't they just look amazing) and began the process of the formation of a gang mentality, much needed for the us and them of live theatre (I am happy to see we've already developed a few in-jokes and phrases that link us a group) but is also acted as a catalyst to provocative thoughts on character, environment and the push and pull of space upon humans.

(Speaking of space and architecture, here is a sneak preview of the set design by Rich White.)

Perhaps, more importantly, it wetted the appetite for what was to come in the rehearsal process this February and ramped up the excitement to what awaited us all on this fantastic adventure.

Of course, visiting some of the locations was difficult, it as far too easy to transpose myself some 18 years back and see my young self, resting, nonchalant, against grimy, graffiti tattooed walls and thus, to see apparitions of friends, much loved but long dead; co-exisitng with my past self. The only place these friendships can ever exist again.

I didn't have a little cry until I was safely ensconced on the Piccadilly Line train back home...home, which is London now, not Nottingham.

So now, we wait, wait until the 21st February when rehearsals start in posh and ever so far removed Battersea, where we will take our Notts field-trip learning and make that little corner of SW11 forever NG3.

"See you on the ice..."

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Russian Rap


When I was in the Ukraine I had a wee bit of free time to watch Ukrainian tele, in between nearly being set on fire and eating borsch with pampushka and I observed a strange phenomenon...

Russian rap.

Yes, Russia makes rap music, which struck me as odd because Russia doesn't contain many black people. I sat and watched the Russian rap music videos, which to all intents and purposes, resembled modern rap music videos but with one crucial element missing: black people.

To be clear, I have no problem with white people rapping, nor do I see rap as a preserve of black people but there is no doubt that rap and hip-hop has it's roots firmly in black American culture and is the key contemporary musical form of black America and indeed, blackness.

That's why Russian rap surprised me, an inherently black form presented with no black people.

The other stark paradox is that Russia is wracked with racism and bigotry, not just the long tradition Russia has of anti-Semitism and anti-Polonism but of hatred towards anyone deemed non-Russian.

Russia is suffering an epidemic of racially motivated killing and violence, with some 85,000 neo-Nazi's and a casual but pernicious racism being entrenched in Russian culture, which finds an easy target in the easily differentiated matter of skin colour.

People of African or Afro-Carribean decent in Russia are so often abused, either violently or verbally, that they have ceased to report it and assaults are merely part of their existence.

Which is why I have a problem with Russian rap, it must be popular, otherwise the music videos wouldn't be in rotation but it exists in a country where blackness, the very root of the musical formula they are exploiting, is despised.

What an awful dis-connect, typical of small-minded racists. Bigotry makes the lives of black people awful in Russia, whilst a fundamentally black music form is paraded on television by white rappers and is clearly popular.

I know white people have been stealing black culture for some time but this really stretches the very limits of belief.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Monday, 24 January 2011

A Letter in the Economist About Pubs...

SIR-Around 40 years ago some friends and I wandered into a small pub in Birstall, West Yorkshire. After enjoying the local bitter, we made the mistake of asking the elderly landlady whether we could have some crisps. She looked at us askance and tersely replied,

"This is a pub, not a bloody restaurant."

Those were the days.

BILL CATLEY
Hong Kong

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.









Thursday, 20 January 2011

Martin Collins' Thoughts on Nottingham

After asking a whole bunch of people about Nottingham and witnessing utter intellectual capitulation, I had to get an expert on board, so here is Martin Collins, star of BBC's "Big Babies" in full effect.



Hopefully that's put you all straight for the record...

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Foreign Trash


Foreign Trash.

This way.

Welcome to America.

Get out.

Heh.

I've kept quiet on the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, an act of terrorism that claimed innocents lives. I don't quite have the heart to unpick it all and to mourn yet another downward step in America's spiralling malaise, to imagine the predictable but no less vile response if the murderer had been a Muslim, or black (or God forbid, both...I can smell the salivating from here); where mental health issues, drug addiction and dysfunctional background would not have mattered one jot in the FAUX NEWS driven witch-hunt.

Instead, we have to watch as he is painted as yet another mentally deranged maniac, when in reality Jared Loughner is just one of millions mentally deranged maniacs that are being manipulated, agitated to the point of extreme action. Their derangement a product of the poisonous political atmosphere in America.

Still, we are left with a pretty ugly picture as the Republicans, especially the Tea Party febrile, fevered, fervent Republicans, led by that cunt Sarah Palin, deny any responsibility for their nasty, bitter language that has become the language of politics in the US. They shrug and genuinely think they have nothing coming to them, that the hateful lies, fiction and running political interference has no impact at all on people's perceptions.

The bile must be touching the back of their tongues.

Either that or the dis-connect is so great they've ripped a hole in time and space.

They draw the Democrats into pointing fingers because the left knows that if this could be pinned on them, it would be and with full force. And so the atmosphere darkens even further.

I made the mistake of engaging with a few mini-Jared Loughners on Twitter, fearful, angry types with plenty of bile to spill whilst calling you on the bile you were spilling, seeing theirs as holy bile, righteous bile and yours as plain old bile, Communist bile, Leftist bile, Socialist bile; all the while missing the point that they were so full of hate, so full of ignorance and confusion that they too could be that man with a gun in their hand, shooting children, women, judges and politicians, trained as they are like Pavlov's dogs to take back what is theirs through their Second Amendment rights.

I think I give up on this foreign trash.

I think.

Who will survive in America?


Kanye West- Who Will Survive in America from Miko Yung on Vimeo.

Monday, 10 January 2011

What do you Know About Nottingham?

I thought I'd make a few videos to help promote Our Style is Legendary and one of the ideas I came up with was asking a whole bunch of non-Nottingham folk what they knew about Nottingham.

I never, in my wildest dreams, expected the answers to be as bad as this.

Nottingham is clearly struggling on the cultural map of the UK.

If your answers, my dear reader, are as bad as theirs, can ya' sen to Our Style is Legendary for a Notts education.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

To Sergei Esenin by Mayakovsky (an excerpt for Michael)


You have gone

(as they say)

to a Better World.

Bullshit.

Built yourself

a stairway to the stars, didn't you?

No more publishers

advances, no more bars.

Sobered up at last.

No, Esenin, this isn't a joke.

There's a lump of grief in my throat.

I can see you with your slit wrists

slinging up your bundle of bones.

STOP IT!

Come off it!

Are you crazy or what?

Smearing your cheeks with dead-white chalk?
You, who could do things with words

no one in the world

could do!

WHY? WHAT FOR?

None of us understands.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Welcome to 2011 (and the Ukrainian Question)


Well, here we are and quite frankly, I've not much more to add.

Consider this a marker post for the new year, a post to ease the guilt over lack of bloggage because life is wonderfully busy at the moment. A holding page with pretty things to look at...


Actually, I've been dying for this day to come round, the day when the UK comes back to life after the winter turkey malaise and I can re-commence with full speed, fury and power on Our Style is Legendary; because as nice as it was buying costume on eBay (and what beautiful late 80s/early 90s costume we have ladies and gentlemen), there is much harder work to be done here.

Thankfully, the year has barely started and I already have my first casting as well as my first job on the horizon, hopefully making a trip to the Ukraine to do some filming (I find it impossible to say or type Ukraine without putting 'the' in front of it, any ideas why?) which would be grand and a nice welcome to the year. And of course, a new term teaching at the Actor's Centre commences this weekend, with old faces and new making for an exciting body of work for the next three months.

But in reality, until the 2nd April 2011, there is only one focus, one Everest, one star in my sky: Our Style is Legendary and that play being seen and loved by as many people as possible.

So here's to that.