An Actor’s Life: Programmed to tell the truth

Helmet worn for protection from the public (photo: CAPTAIN ROGER FENTON)
February 6th, 2022 1:00 pm| by Ian Burns
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In Fergal O’Byrne’s ‘Rub-a-Dub-Dub’, which I’m proud to confirm will be making its worldwide premiere on March 16 (see page 9 for details) as the first play of the That Theatre Company 2022 line-up, one of the characters is a replicant programmed to tell the truth.

Another big fat one
Unfortunately in this age, the pursuit of truth is no longer a two-way street, and our politicians are the worst offenders. From lying about the laughable capability of their mobile phones to absolute denials of the culpability for their decisions, it has become the norm in Denmark – and across the world.

Were such replicants programmed to detect lies, they’d quickly short circuit in the face of all the untrue utterances coming out of Westminster of late.

At least in John Major’s day back in the decadent 1990s you knew where you stood with “Oh, that’s a big one!” Invariably looking through the keyhole of a Tory politician on more than familiar terms with his intern. Today, alas, it’s yet another of Boris Johnson’s outrageous porkie pies.

Rebellious image
Johnson’s image has always been to have a terrible image: “The scruffier the better, please barber, and try to hide my thinning hair!” 

He has manufactured this rebellious image over the decades and now, as a middle-aged man, against all the odds this unkempt public schoolboy is king. 

Still the impression you get of Johnson, and too many other British politicians these days, is that there are genuinely very few who are prepared to take responsibility for their actions.

Picture this scene as he leaves Number 10 to go to ‘work’. “Boris, you’re not going out like that are you?” chides his adoring Carrie. She ruffles his hair, crumples his tie, pulls out his shirt and gives him a peck on his puffy cheek. “That’s much better, have a lovely day.”

Lying: the artform
Let’s pretend that British politicians, like the replicant in ‘Rub-a-Dub-Dub’, were programmed not to lie. Life would be simpler for all of us. Do they rehearse the lie-of-the-day in front of a mirror for the sick sake of party loyalty? ‘

Here’s an idea for a new TV show: instead of ‘Match of the Day’, we could have ‘Lie of the Day’. Just imagine the commentators!

“He’s been lying for years now, but shows no sign of letting up. Just look at the ease with which he looks the interviewer directly in the eye and, with the hint of a smile or smirk, says such utter bullshit. Amazing! An example to young liars all over the world!”

“I’d like to mention the way he rouses the passions of both sides of the House. Listen to all those ‘Nays’, ‘Yays’ and ‘Hear-hears’! It’s an atmosphere more like the Manchester derby than a chamber for serious political debate.”

“Both are great examples of lying at their very best, although my personal choice for lie of the decade remains the huge porky that leaving the EU was a good idea for the British people.”

PS: We now know the results of Sue Gray’s ‘independent’ inquiry about the goings on at Partygate. So, we could already have another contender for ‘Liar of the Year’ and it’s only early February. 

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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