My Copenhagen: A life of theatre, from Scotland to Denmark

The Scottish actor, producer and director Ian Burns has lived in Copenhagen for over three decades, running the stage company ‘That Theatre’.

Ian Burns is a renowned name in English-language theatre in Denmark. For 27 years, he has run the successful Copenhagen-based company That Theatre. After earlier stints in London and Paris, the Scottish actor, producer and director has now lived in the Danish capital for 33 years – precisely half of his lifetime.

I settled in Denmark because …I wanted to work in English-speaking theatres around Europe. So I sent out my CV and the first that responded was a small company called The Mermaid Theater in Copenhagen. But that is not the reason I stayed. I stayed because in August 1990 after being turned around trying to find my way, I saw this Danish girl and then the crazy happened. Now we’re married and have two kids together.

My favourite thing about living in Copenhagen is … that the city is built on a human scale. It’s very accessible. For example, houses can’t go up above five floors, except churches or sometimes hotels but otherwise, that keeps it on a human scale.

Here in Copenhagen I never get used to … to those long winter days, where it’s just grey from morning til evening. 

On an integration scale of 1 to 10 I would say I’m … a 9. I mean, I’ve been in Denmark for half of my life so yes, I would say that I am very integrated.  I actually passed my Danish exams last June. Even though I perform in English, I’ve got loads of Danish friends.

Jeg kan tale … godt dansk. It took me three years to learn how to really speak Danish. But I think the first step is figuring out where the word starts and where it ends, because it’s sort of a flat language. But I listened a lot to the radio to try to crack it and it worked.

My favourite observation about the Danes is… their education system, it’s just so good. I really think the Scandinavian education system is a system that works. I think it is above and beyond what England can offer. The standard of education, the standard of teaching, really impresses me

The three words that I think best describe Copenhagen are … Clean, accessible and, at least during the summer, vibrant.