Bjørneboeaksjonen* (The Bjørneboe Campaign)

Produced byPerleporten Teatergruppe
Number of events1
Running period12 Mar. 1977  —  12 Mar. 1977

About Bjørneboeaksjonen* (The Bjørneboe Campaign)

Perleporten Teatergruppe and some other people demonstrated against Norwegian theatre institutions treatment of Jens Bjørneboe as a playwright.

The campaign was held during the opening of Jeg tar meg den frihet* (I take the liberty), a collage of selected texts and songs by Jens Bjørneboe, at the Amphi Stage of The National Theatre. A bit into the performance, when the actor Henki Kolstad started citing the poem Ungdommens råskap (literally: The brutality of youth), a member of the audience blew a flute and Anna-Sophie Langfeldt got up to speak.

Theatre manager Arild Brinchmann was able to calm down the tempers onstage and in the seats. He turned on the working lights. The room was silent. Anna-Sophie Langfeldt read a manifesto about the treatment Norwegian theatre had given Jens Bjørneboe when he was alive.

Jens Bjørneboe died May 9 1976, and the opening of Jeg tar meg den frihet took place the year after, March 12 1977.

*Not yet translated into English. The title within parentheses is the Norwegian title's literal meaning.

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Press review

Erik Pierstorff, Comment titled Anarkistene i teatret (literally: The Anarchists of the theatre), 15.03.1977, Dagbladet [Oslo]:
"The anarchist demonstration against The National Theatre's opening at the Bjørneboe collage Jeg tar meg den frihet * (I take the liberty), was a very appropriate demonstration. I disregard the joyful in the fact that someone is at all an anarchist these days - one thought they had disappeared with the grand dukes of Balkan whom they used to throw bombs at earlier in the days. But here they come, at the opening among the bourgeois, reading their manifesto and leaves the performance in good order. No wonder the theatre manager has the working lights turned on - so that the actionists can better see and be seen, and after the performance says he is satisfied with the demonstration: It took place in the spirit of Bjørneboe, and doesn't such a demonstration show the vitality of theatre? It was as if he had ordered it - or as if the anarchists had given a touch of glamour to the opening by their presence. [...] the manifesto - despite the urbane form it was presented in - contains accusation of a pretty perfidious character. That is, The National Theatre is held responsible for the fact that Jens Bjørneboe quit writing drama. [...] Perleporten is one of the most important initiatives taken in Norwegian theatre for many years. I have said it at several occasions. I am happy to say it again. But I find it utterly disturbing when Perleporten shows up at the opening of another theatre, interrupts the performance, raises exaggerated, unfounded accusations against the theatre in question, lambasts the ongoing performance as 'corpse mutilation', 'gluttony' and 'brutality' and encourages the audience to leave the venue. No - it is like I said, one can't take it seriously. But there are some of us who would like to take Perleporten seriously. And that would be best achieved if Perleporten concentrates on performing its own - excellent - productions and let others concentrate on theirs."

Perleporten Teatergruppe, Opinion piece titled Omfavnelsen av en død opposisjonell, some days after the piece by Erik Pierstorff (quoted above), March 1977, Dagbladet [Oslo]:
"Everybody knows that Erik Pierstorff's goodwill and admiration for what we have done theatrically is something we in Perleporten depend on economically. His acceptance of us can mean that we can survive. We are subjects to the cultural authorities' feedback, positively and negatively. [...] An even more important reason we find it hard to reply is that Pierstorff and we talk out of two different perceptions of reality. The fear of being misunderstood and misinterpreted is founded for us - that was what Pierstorff did come to the campaign. He described it as an 'appropriate' demonstration, and at the same time 'so grotesque and exaggerated it only deserves silence'. Dear Erik Pierstorff, can't you hear what you are saying? [...] When Pierstorff says that we accuse The National Theatre of the main responsibility Jens Bjørneboe stopped writing drama, he overlooks one central nuance of the manifesto. The established theatre community is responsible, not one single theatre. The National Theatre is the flagship of this theatre community, and the image in full is not very different because they have staged two of Bjørneboe's plays. What it is about is the general attitude of the theatre community to a writer who wanted to work in drama. It is about the consumer relationship the theatre has to the writing of Bjørneboe, never about real, political involvement on the terms of the writer. [...] What was said in the manifesto deserved to be said. When it was said, once and for all, and the opposition against the production was manifested, we hadn't planned to fuss any more with it. But when the campaign is devoted this much space in the cultural pages, something is being said about the established culture's need for sensation. This sensationalism is not our concern. But we have to reply when it gives Pierstorff an excuse to moral finger pointing. [...] He doesn't understand that it is impossible to us to accept established culture while taking ourselves seriously. When we work in theatre it is a kind of revolutionary practice, in which we can condense society around us and our own lives, with an aim of changing both. Perleporten Teatergruppe was started from a vision of another and better society, from an experience we can live different lives. The only culture we can take seriously is the revolutionary culture working to put the wreck of society in its grave, without following the same path ourselves. This revolutionary activity embraces the outer and the inner reality of our lives. By acting out our lives onstage we can map the mechanisms of suppression shaping us. This is what we want to do with theatre. Everything else we consider conserving and removed from reality. That we took part in the demonstration at the Amphi Stage is part of our political activity and can't be regarded away from our involvement in theatre.[...] Kisses and hugs from Perleporten Teatergruppe."

*Not yet translated into English. The title within parentheses is the Norwegian title's literal meaning.

More about Bjørneboeaksjonen* (The Bjørneboe Campaign)

In the historical article Perleporten Teatergruppe. Gruppas historie (literally: Perleporten Teatergruppe. The history of the company) Karl Hoff writes the following about the campaign:

"We were aware of the fight Bjørneboe had fought to have his plays performed by the 'major' theatre institutions, and when The National Theatre in March the year after his death produced what they called a Bjørneboe collage, Jeg tar meg den frihet* (I take the liberty), we were a group of people, including Perleporten Teatergruppe, who went together to demonstrate a distance against what we experienced to be a lack of respect for Jens Bjørneboe.

We took the liberty and did not avoid making a scandal in Christiania Theatre, at the occasion. The production opened Saturday March 12 1977 at the Amphi Stage of The National Theatre, and a bit into the performance; when actor Henki Kolstad started citing the poem Ungdommens råskap (literally: The brutality of youth), one of us blew a flute we had brought, and Anna-Sophie Langfeldt stood up. The theatre manager Arild Brinchmann managed to calm the tempers onstage and in the seats. He turned on the working lights. The room was silent. Nerves vibrated in all directions through the venue. Anna-Sophie calmly read the manifesto, with her mature, mild voice;

'We, here in the seats, must ask for the word.

Here we are in the theatrical life's flagship, the main responsible for Jens Bjørneboe's quitting of writing drama. It doesn't matter which of the writer's texts are performed. Bjørneboe described for himself how the theatre world expelled him and how repeated refusals forced him to rewrite his plays as novels.

In Norge, mitt Norge (literally: Norway, my Norway, an essay collection by Bjørneboe, Sceneweb's comment) he writes: 'If a Norwegian writer writes a performable play, theatre circles will receive it with the same confused despair as a family scandal, it is as if the poor niece of the family has just had a child.'

Now when Jens Bjørneboe can no longer defend himself he is good enough, and can be made sufficiently harmless, by those with the power in cultural life. Only when death has come the table is made for the real exploitation of productive people. Now the cultural authorities can use Jens Bjørneboe. Authorities he spent his whole life fighting. The gluttony and the mutilation of the corpse have fully started. Jens Bjørneboe taught us that this would happen.

We quote: '... legalised, shameless mass theft of themes and ideas from those potent enough to innovate that kind of things on their own. When the artist is well dead, and a decent period of time has passed, the art of the world in its full belongs to the speculators. This is a shameless provocation to all serious cultural life in admittance to power.'

As I said; we counted on this happening. But we hadn't counted on it happening this fast and this disrespectful.

The work to create a myth about Jens Bjørneboe is on. He is to be placed in a cultural landscape and to be made a national sanctity, representing no danger to the custodian kind of person he wanted the end of. 'Can you possibly understand/ where their brutality comes from?' (Sceneweb's comment: The latter quote is a line from the poem Ungdommens råskap, translated into the English for the occasion of this text, by Sceneweb's Lillian Bikset.)

If you wonder who we are, we who say this, we are a group of anarchists. If you wonder what anarchism is, read Jens Bjørneboe.

When we now leave, we encourage all of the rest of you to do the same.'

We got up, and left the venue as a gathered flock. As far as I can remember nobody else than us did. I am not totally sure of this, but I think so."


Perleporten Teatergruppe. Gruppas historie (literally: Perleporten Teatergruppe. The history of the company). Edited and processed by Karl Hoff. Oslo, April 2009

*Not yet translated into English. The title within parentheses is the Norwegian title's literal meaning.