Monday, 16 April 2012

Oleg Menshikov (Олег Меньшиков)

Last Tuesday I went to the theatre to see my favourite Russian actor, Олег Меньшиков (Oleg Menshikov). It wasn't a play, more of a monologue of him talking about what music has meant to him throughout his life, accompanied by a band playing his favourite pieces. I didn't understand a single word he said, because his usual talking speed seems to be about fifty times that of a normal person, but the music was nice, and it was interesting to see him in person rather than on TV.

I can't think of who the equivalent of Oleg Menshikov is in the UK or US, possibly because I am appalling bad at anything to do with modern life. When I moved back to the UK in 2009 I kept seeing all these headlines about someone called Cheryl Cole, a person I had never previously heard of, and after a month I was so annoyed that I actually had to google her. But it's also possible that no equivalent to Oleg Menshikov exists, and this is because (trying not to sound like a teenage fan here), he is really, really talented. He speaks French and English as well as Russian, he dances, he sings and he plays the guitar and the piano and God knows what else. And when I say he plays the piano, he doesn't just play it a bit, he REALLY plays the piano. I think he must have a clause in every film contract he signs that he gets to play the piano, just to show off how good he is.

One of my favourite of his films is called Восток Запад (East West), in which he stars with another actor called Sergei Bodrov Jr (now sadly deceased). Sergei Bodrov Jr had a PhD in Art History. He wrote his thesis on "Architecture in the Venetian Renaissance Painting". So there are several (well, at least two) super-intelligent and cultured Russian actors. It's people like this that make you feel like a failure as a human being.

Back to the theatre. The female spectators outnumbered the men by about 30:1, and at the end of the performance so many people went up to the front to give him flowers, that he couldn't carry them all, and had to go and put them down and come back on stage and carry on collecting bouquets. He had to do this three times. Three times! That is what you call popularity. But what does he do with all the flowers?

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