An Actor’s Life: Another thing the Romans did for us! – The Post

An Actor’s Life: Another thing the Romans did for us!

Ian (right) might have his work cut out trying to help somebody in a Globe t-shirt with their love life
February 20th, 2016 7:00 pm| by Ian Burns
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The answer to the question ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ in ‘The Life of Brian’ barely scraped the barrel. One notable omission was their ability to operate on cataracts, which was two millennia ahead of its time. And another was its extension of citizenship rights to its outlying regions – an area in which we still haven’t properly caught up!

Caracalla the crafty
In 212 AD, the then emperor, one Caracalla, gave full citizenship rights to most of the 30 million ‘free men’ living in the Roman Empire. He was by no means liberal-minded and is on record as killing his brother to secure his own position, but was he ahead of his time?

Giving people more apparent freedoms means he was surely a good man? Sadly not – history has judged him badly. It was a ruse rushed through to raise tax revenues for his lavish lifestyle and protection money for the army.

His grandiose building schemes, like the Baths of Caraca in Rome that ensured his legacy, puts other modern-day tyrants – the planned Thatcher museum, which will be paid for by British tax-payers, springs to mind – into perspective. (I heard someone recently say that if you want to see a Thatcher museum, just take a walk around the north of England!)

Trump the troop rallier
My point is that Caracalla did what politicians have done for millennia: spin words that frighten us so that we don’t mind giving away a few more liberties just as long as we believe we can all sleep safer in our beds.

I hope I’m not tempting fate imagining a smiling President Trump extending the same invitation to the many Mexicans who want to become citizens of the USA – just as a way of getting more tax dollars and a steady flow of young men and women to expand his armed forces. A terrible and apocalyptic scenario begins to play out in my noodle. Out, out!

Fallen but never forgotten
Fear is never far away. On Sunday we marked the one-year anniversary of the senseless murders of Finn Nørgaard, a film director shot and killed at the Krudttønden Kulturhus, and Dan Uzan, a security guard slain at the Great Synagogue in central Copenhagen.

In heart-warming commemorations, many have visited both places to leave flowers and to light candles. Outside Krudttønden there is a subtle but very moving plaque on one of its walls that includes the line “If we protect the weakest members of our society, we all become strong.”

I think most of us believe that, but as I look out at 2016 speeding by, I wonder if the world is a better or worse place than it was a year ago.

Shakespeare the everyman
I’m sure Shakespeare would have plenty to say, although there are some who try to tell us that he doesn’t have the right to be Shakespeare and that he didn’t write his plays.

Well, our current production, perhaps aptly at Krudttønden (Serridslevvej 2, Cph Ø), marks the 400th anniversary of the death of the Bard by celebrating his genius with a show we devised ourselves called ‘Shakespeare Unplugged’ (Feb 17-March 19; tickets via billetten.dk or 7020 2096; more info at cphpost.dk or that-theatre.com).

The action takes place in a pub and 40 members of the audience can choose to sit on stage with us. I would like to think that William would be happy with this concept.

Ian Burns: An Actor's Life


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.