An Actor’s Life: Great Expectations

Europe has closed the door on the exiteers (photo: Pixabay)
October 23rd, 2021 5:00 am| by Ian Burns
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If Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen, the central characters in our returning play ‘The Visit’ (Oct 29-Nov 27 at Krudttønden), were alive today, both would be campaigning against the treatment of the poorest members of society. They would deplore the unfairness of how the disparity between Ebenezer Scrooge and the Little Matchstick Girl hasn’t changed a jot. 

What the dickens
I have no doubt who would be the angriest right now. Victorian England was rife with homelessness, ill health, bad social housing, starvation, unemployment, orphanages, workhouses and people being exploited as a cheap labour source – and Dickens would see much of this same injustice in Britain today. While the gap between rich and poor has been growing steadily in Denmark these past two decades, it’s communist era Cuba in comparison to Britain. 

Dickens spoke out about these issues in his books and in public, but where is the anger and outrage today? Does the huge majority of the Tory government grant them immunity from public opinion? Where is the opposition? (Note to Editor: I’ll try and mention as many Dickens novels as I can as I write this.)

Dire strait expectations
One thing that exasperates me is the planned cull of millions of healthy pigs, and how it is being accepted as a ‘bump in the road’ in this post-Brexit age as Britain deludedly tries to resume its place as a world player. 

Healthy animals that farmers have nurtured for the marketplace are going to be shot by vets and then burnt or buried. In these desperately hard times, with thousands of people relying on food banks for survival, and many more sent around the twist, the farmers must be tempted to dump the carcasses outside 10 Downing Street. 

The Tories want us to believe our mutual friend, the pandemic, is to blame for the vegetables and flowers rotting in the fields, petrol unavailable at service stations and empty supermarket shelves. The same can be seen across Europe, they say. 

Really? Is this even the tale of two cities across the North Sea? Tories interviewed on the BBC bravely and enthusiastically try to sound as if they are totally committed to the bonkers Brexit cause as they repeat the soundbites of “levelling up” and “retraining” people for proper, “well-paid jobs”. But explain that to people who will have to choose between heating or eating this winter. 

A bleak house indeed 
Is there anything in Britain that actually works? From Denmark, I see a depressingly sad picture. Britain will divide itself. It’s inevitable and little England will be left like an old curiosity shop. A once great nation that strutted and fretted its hour upon the stage: from its celebration in the Pickwick Papers to its denigration in the Pandora Papers.

And let’s not forget about its decimation of its police force – surely another sign that it must change the way it taxes the rich to raise the money the nation obviously needs? It can start by overhauling the lawful means the rich employ to not pay tax.

As we approach the Christmas carol season Britain will need its great sense of humour to survive. Not much to laugh about right now though, eh? 

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.

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