An actor’s Life: The show must go on – The Post

An actor’s Life: The show must go on

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.
April 4th, 2015 7:00 pm| by Ian Burns
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We have finished our run of ‘Shakespeare’s Women’ at Krudttønden – the theatre now infamous around the world after the fatal shooting. We had to cancel eight performances following police advice and eventually opened on February 25, a whole week later than planned.

A part of history now
The National Museum has taken the window of the foyer to make an exhibition out of it, along with two of our bullet-ridden posters. A bit macabre perhaps, but it’s being made in an attempt to capture the response felt by many at this outrageous and cowardly attack. Perhaps some of you witnessed a taste of that response by watching the thousands who gathered outside the theatre on the Monday after the incident?

We helped to breathe life back into Krudttønden, and I’m enormously proud of that and of the talented team that I have around me who waited patiently like “greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start”. Most people with seats for the cancelled shows switched to other evenings. I’d like to thank them for their understanding. The not knowing of when we would open was the most frustrating element, and we came very close to cancelling.

A degree of hindsight
Krudttønden was Denmark’s first taste of ‘terrorism’ and the nation was rightly shocked. It was perhaps naïve to invite Lars Viks, a controversial cartoonist with a fatwa hanging over him, to this particularly open venue, but hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it?

I have performed at Krudttønden twice a year for 17 years now, and the welcoming and friendly reception from the people who work there are just some of the reasons why I enjoy performing in its intimate space.

In yesteryear twas the IRA
Before I came to Denmark, I cut my professional teeth as an actor in three productions on London’s West End stage, and I quickly became used to the almost daily evacuation of theatres due to bomb threats from the IRA.

Audiences would hear an announcement such as: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have received a bomb threat, so please make your way calmly to the exits.” Most people waited outside on the pavement chatting or popped into a pub for a quick drink while the sniffer dogs and bomb squads did their jobs. As soon as the all-clear was given, they’d pile back into the theatre to continue enjoying the show. Hardened possibly, but life and the show had to go on. As true then as it is now.

The show must go on
Of course, terrorism wasn’t the only threat to our run. Last month’s outbreak of flu was another worry. Funnily enough, when you work in the West End they try to limit every chance you might have of requiring your understudy. They make you sign a contract agreeing not to participate in sports that could cause injury (basically all sports) or to travel outside a 50-mile radius of Londinium.

Most accidents that prevented actors from going on when I was there actually, ironically enough, took place on the stage itself. Designers were given free range to explore their imaginations, and this often resulted in steep-raked stages with sharp edged sets. Back problems and cuts were commonplace.

As for the common cold, well thank goodness for Contact 400s and whisky – that’s all I can say.