An Actor’s Life: Oh flux! What have we done?

Even WC, on this poster and the five pound note, couldn’t deter them (photo: iStock)
September 3rd, 2016 7:00 am| by Ian Burns
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I couldn’t vote in Brexit because I’ve lived outside the UK for more than 15 years. And today I sit here in a state of shock and dismay wondering how many of my fellow Brits have a nagging sense of “What have I done?” The UK is now officially in a state of flux.

By abroad divided
This was a democratic exercise I was reminded by one of my oldest friends who told me to “accept it and to get on with it for the good of the nation”. The result of this narrowly fought and acrimonious referendum is that it has set us against each other, dividing us 52-48. The younger generation feels let down, as it was mainly older people who voted for a future they don’t want. At a stroke, 27 possible places to go and work will be denied them.

For decades confined to the economic scrap heap, the traditional working classes voiced their anger at the ruling elite. But together they have cast Europe, refugees, foreigners and Muslims as their scapegoats. Immigrants are only welcome if they are good at sport or medicine or are rich.

Another criticism aimed at me was that I had no right to voice my opinion as I’ve chosen to live in Denmark for 26 years. Well, I am married with two lovely boys and like to think that in my own small way I’ve tried to promote what’s best about the UK – namely producing excellent British theatre.

Porkie pie patriotism
This result has depressed me. The jingoistic refrain eagerly expressed as the outers celebrate has come as a bit of a shock. Their mantra now is “We’ve got our country back!” and “We don’t want the Germans telling us what to do.” I can already hear the dulcet tones of some of our football fans chanting “Fuck off Brussels!”

The out campaign was characterised by lies on a huge scale. Already some of the promises made by the out team have been reneged upon. The main one is that the 350 million pounds we pay each week to Brussels won’t be spent on rebuilding the NHS. Nigel Farage now concedes that figure was “a mistake”. Many believe the NHS will be privatised sooner rather than later.

Drifting on sea of tears
In the tempest our island race is now sailing through, David Cameron’s emotional resignation speech was aptly full of nautical references. He says the ship needs a new leader to negotiate terms with the EU. Who will that be? The polls suggest Boris Johnson or Teresa May. But do they really want to be the one who picks up this poisoned chalice?

Cameron’s legacy is a divided nation, a divided party and a divided Europe. He’s a PM who gambled everything on this referendum and lost.

We are in unchartered waters ladies and gentles. It might take years for these wounds to heal and we will need steady heads to see us through.

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.