An Actor’s Life: Like 1945, but the drawbridges are up – The Post

An Actor’s Life: Like 1945, but the drawbridges are up

Ian would have loved to be our man in Washington (photo: Jehochman)
January 29th, 2017 7:00 am| by Ian Burns
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Unsure if the morning brings hope or hopelessness. I will not focus on the fool-on- the-hill. Instead I’d like to think about what could be achieved if we could stop worrying about divisions, stand together and live and let live.

Naïve to imagine?
Sounds naïve? Imagine a post-Brexit Britain where the NHS was no longer a pawn in the political arena? Imagine if politicians could unite across the political divide and move it away from the stench of Westminster and its plans to privatise it.

It’s a far cry from Denmark where the health service is the domain of the regions. If there’s been one story recently that highlights the huge difference between Denmark and Britain, and Denmark and the USA for that matter, it’s how Vordingborg Municipality has agreed to spend 1 million kroner on dental care for ex-drug addicts to improve their job prospects. There’s something to smile about eh? This is not fake news or an ‘alternative fact’.

Echoes of 1945
I think that here in Denmark the majority of people still want to remain a part of Europe – the same continent that 72 years ago emerged from the horror and carnage of two World Wars, which had challenged and questioned the relationship the working classes had with their so-called ‘masters’.

The aristocracy and its hold on power was challenged and threatened. People were hungry for more control over their own destinies. There was energy in the air that would not be stopped, perhaps a little bit like today, as people are once again angry with the elite for ignoring their voices.

Cohesion dissolving
In Britain in 1945, the people stood together and demanded change. They wanted and would get a national health service, free education, control over the railways, roads, mining and steel. Great times lay in store.

As a result my generation was lucky. I was born in 1957. I was able to study for free. I went to a drama school for three years. Unthinkable now. Perhaps some things – like the NHS, schools, libraries, swimming pools or transport systems – should be prohibited from making a profit?

But in 1945 we didn’t put drawbridges up and say ‘Britain First’. We realised we couldn’t be that selfish and couldn’t survive without the rest of Europe. Now we see nationalistic tentacles spreading across Europe and the USA. The ultra-right are enjoying this. They have a collective ‘patriotic spring’ in their goose-step.

Remembered on stage
This year marks the 20th anniversary of That Theatre Company. As the artistic director I’m smiling and am very proud of that.

Our next production, ‘After Miss Julie’ by Patrick Marber (more details on page G3 in INOUT), takes place in July 1945 on the eve of the general election during a period of collective hope. It’s an intelligent reworking of August Strindberg’s classic and once banned masterpiece ‘Miss Julie’. It was universally labelled dangerous and indecent because the main female character wants to have sex for pleasure and control over her own destiny.

The day after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, millions of women all over the world demonstrated against a 70-year-old teenager who wants to turn the clock back. I’m with the ladies who are fighting for their rights and for the rights of us all. What about you?

READ MORE: http://cphpost.dk/news/womens-march-copenhagen.html

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.