An Actor’s Life: This Scepter’d Isle - The Post

An Actor’s Life: This Scepter’d Isle

We’re sure Boris is truly sorry for being such a rascal, Ian (Photo: flickr/clatham House)
December 18th, 2019 2:05 pm| by Ian Burns
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Picture yourself flying through thick clouds. The visibility is zero. You can just about make out the flashing red lights at the end of the wing. In these situations pilots trust their navigation systems and people on the ground and we, in turn, trust them to land us safely so we can continue our lives.

Storm clouds ahead
This is how I feel every time I travel from Denmark to the UK. But the clouds I refer to are metaphorical.

Whilst clarity is in the air in Denmark following the election of a left-wing government in June, and we can more or less anticipate every single move they’re going to make – more welfare, higher corporation taxes, reversals of most hardline policies brought in by the previous lot – the same can’t be said of one of Denmark’s oldest allies and biggest trading partners.

Does anyone reading this really truly feel that Boris Johnson is in control of Britain’s national aeroplane? Writing this just days before the UK General Election, it feels like Britain is sitting aboard one of its famous Lancaster bombers – at any moment, it could be blown out of the sky.

No man is an island
The UK, contrary to popular belief, is not an island. It is, in fact, made up of over 6,000 islands.

Shakespeare summed up its landscape best when John of Gaunt – given the usurping nature of his progeny, a David Cameron-like character if you like (more about him later) – uttered these lines in Richard II.

“This scepter’d isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, demi-paradise, this fortress built by nature for herself. Against infection and the hand of war, this happy breed of men, this little world, this precious stone set in the silver sea.”

Remember that the engelsk – as the Danes so like to call the Brits – are not the entire nation. And I feel that a disconnected Englishman like Johnson is not the man to rebuild our collection of islands after 10 years of neglect and austerity caused in the main by the political party he is the leader of.

Smash and grab
Island retreats are a welcome refuge from the pressures of the world, but they are increasingly being bought up by the insanely rich for their own devices – the likes of Anders Holch Povlsen and Richard Branson, for example.

Nothing new in that, but when do the ‘No-entry’ or the ‘Private Property’ signs become the norm, and roads and paths once open to the public become no-go areas and start to rankle?

Imagine corporations and billionaires salivating at the thought of becoming even richer as they see a weakened Britain open to plunder. Johnson seems content to let this happen for some bizarre reason. Sadly, despite his own claims, he is no Winston Churchill.

Can Johnson with all his bluster really reunite the UK with whatever natural beauty that can be salvaged, or is absolutely everything in Discount Britain up for grabs? Can anyone with money just turn up and do what they like? We will soon know.

Lessons from Jura
The perils and mediocrity of cheap consumerism were highlighted and written about by George Orwell on a little Hebridean island called Jura, and let’s face it: the writing was on the wall during David Cameron’s reign of austerity.

Curiously, perhaps, but the island of Jura is where Cameron’s wife’s rather rich family have property. You might have heard of them: the Astors? I’m sure they’ve got plenty stored away to see out the storm. The rest of us will have to just close our eyes and hope as we come in to land in the darkness.

Ian Burns


A resident here since 1990, Ian Burns is the artistic director at That Theatre Company and very possibly Copenhagen’s best known English language actor thanks to roles as diverse as Casanova, Shakespeare and Tony Hancock.