Soap on site!

What's life like on a building site? Pretty uproarious, it seems, judging from all the antics they get up to on Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. The popular series was first seen on ITV earlier in the 80s and now it's been rebuilt for showing earlier in the evenings. We had a chat with Kevin Whately, who plays Neville, about life among the cement mixers...


The series has been changed about. How do you feel about that?


I'm happy about it. It's hardly noticable as Roger Bamford, the producer, has done a very good job on it. He's had to lose about six minutes from each show to fit the new slot. All that's happened is that a few jokes have been cut as they aren't suitable for early evening viewing. A couple of other scenes have been cut too, but it's still a good show.

Do you think that Auf Wiedersehen, Pet can compete with BBC's Eastenders?


I really don't know much about Eastenders as I've never watched it: well, maybe I've seen one or two episodes, but I'm usually putting my children to bed atthat time of the evening.

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was filmed nearly six years ago, so can you remember muchabout it?


Just odd things, but not much really. Things do come back to me as I watch it. The main thing that I remember about it is that it was shot out of sequence. That means that we'd film one scene from the first episode and then one fromthe sixth and then back to the second and so on, over a period of several months. Sometimes you'd get confused trying to remember which episode you wereworking on and where you were supposed to be. If you watch carefully you'll see that some of the actors' weights change. Someone leaves a room and when they return two minutes later they've put on a stone!



Was it really filmed in Germany?


Parts of it were. Shots of the town were filmed in Hamburg, even though it's meant to be Dusseldorf. The general view of the building site was also filmed in Hamburg, but all the close-ups were done in England. To make it look authentic the producers shipped over thousands of German bricks and they also built a building site at Elstree for the close-up shots, which strangely enough was on the same spot that the Eastenders set is on now.

Is Auf Wiedersehen, Pet anything like a real building site?


Yes it is. I worked as a labourer on sites when I was a student so I have an idea of what the real thing is like. You do get a lot of characters working there as you do in the series. The main difference is the language which was very fruity! Even the original Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was nothing like as strong as the real thing. The stories they told were far wilder than anything we've done too. The writers of the series spoke to a lot of builders who had worked in Germany and the tales that they came up with were outrageous. I could never repeat them to you!

Was it hard to act as a bricklayer?


I'm sure that it wasn't as hard as really being a bricklayer. We got some tuition from bricklayers so we knew enough to make it look real.


Whose idea was Auf Wiedersehen, Pet?


It was Franc Roddam's idea. He had a friend who had also worked as a builder in Germany and Franc was fascinated by the tales he told. He then got Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to write it. Ian's a Geordie too so he had a good idea of what the characters should be like.

Did you get on well with the rest of the cast?


Very well indeed. It was fantastic really, and I feel very fortunate to have worked with everyone on the show. We had a great feeling of community, which happens a lot in the theatre but not so much in television. I think it was caused by the fact that we were together for a long time during the filming so we all got to know each other and we still meet up regularly, generally at our children's parties! It was a big break for all of us too, so we're all in the same boat which helps you become friends.


Three of the characters in the series come from the north-east of England, and it's often said that there's a great feeling of local community there. Is that true?


Definitely. I think it's because it's fairly remote: the nearest towns are York and Edinburgh which are both a long way away. That helps build up a strong local feeling. It's also to do with the people. All docklands towns are the same: just look at Liverpool or the east end of London. All my family still live in the north east and I miss them and the area now that I've left. I live in Bedfordshire because my work is in London, so I have to be near the capital. You've got to go where the jobs are, which is exactly what Auf Wiedersehen, Pet is all about!


Article courtesy of, and thanks to, Phillip Brown