An Actor’s Life: A world of extremes – The Post

An Actor’s Life: A world of extremes

Alas poor Anker, we knew him better than any politician: a fellow of infinite influence (photo: Gage Skidmore)
April 9th, 2016 7:00 pm| by Ian Burns
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2016 belongs to Shakespeare – and death, murder, greed, corruption, brutality and apathy, but not necessarily in that order.

For whom the bell tolls
If you listen to the midnight peals of the town hall clock in Copenhagen, you might notice that their volume is rather quiet. They get toned down rather discreetly after 8pm, which is very considerate and rather touching.

They are then silent until 8 in the morning, starting with nullified tones that get louder after 9am when the powers that be think that it’s okay to return to full volume as by that time everyone should be up and ready to begin their day.

I listened to the bells last night and it made me think of the time that has already passed in 2016 … and of how much of that time we seem to have spent grieving over mass slaughters, the plight of refugees and brutal behaviour all over the globe. I think you’ll agree that for many it has been a particularly grim period.

A farewell to Anker
“Cheers! Anker finally becomes a good social democrat, because the only good social democrat is a dead social democrat!”

This was a disgustingly ignorant comment made by Carsten Horn, the former chairman of a Dansk Folkeparti chapter on the outskirts of Copenhagen in Brøndby. He posted this on his Facebook page the day after the death of the 93-year-old Anker Jørgensen, a largely respected prime minister and leader and member of Socialdemokratiet for over 30 years.

This could be seen by some as a declaration of war. Many members of Socialdemokraterne (it was renamed in 2002) have dismissed him as a fool, but underlying this methinks is a nasty tendency among the far right across Europe who relish tarnishing being socialist as a negative.

But maybe they do so at their peril, as there are many people who think we should bang the drum for more social justice and to place less stress on austerity for the less fortunate whilst giving unfair benefits to the rich and privileged?

To have and have not
Nothing has changed since Shakespeare’s day it seems. People are still greedy, selfish and ambitious.

And he had the genius to be able to describe these characteristics in beautiful poetic imagery, and I’ll soon have the pleasure of getting to grips with ‘Hamlet’, the world’s best-known play, playing Polonius.

Supported by the National Museum and the Arts Council, 12 actors will perform selected scenes in and around Kronborg Castle in June, July and August this year. King Claudius, brother to the murdered king, will be roughly the same age as Hamlet – a younger man for Queen Gertude and even more difficult for Hamlet to have to call him ‘Father’.

As Hamlet himself puts it: “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, / How infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, / in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! / The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals – and yet, / to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”

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.