Jess Ørnsbo (1932-)
Premier at Aveny Theater, 1988 Se kort

By Lone Nyhuus, journalist, former dancer and choreographer, 2006

Ugly, evil, stupid people 

Should drama be funny? Yes, otherwise it can’t be taken seriously! This exchange of words is by Jess Oernsbo and gleaned from a conversation he has with himself in the catalogue for the first performance of Majonæse (Mayonnaise) in 1988. The play was actually written for Aarhus Theatre, but had been rejected by the drama consultants, and the actors had threatened to strike if they were forced to perform something of the sort. Something like that! But what is this something Oernsbo, the unofficial Danish champion in foul writing, throws in our faces? 

Picture of Denmark of today 

The starting point is a picture of a family: a forcedly jovial manikin, a self-content, extremely fat missus and their three warped children. They began to speak to Oernsbo. To tell their story. They recount how the family shares rather oily baths. Except for the big brother, he beats others up and is - according to mummy - “as delicious as marzipan”. And you don’t wash marzipan, do you? 

They speak of the younger brother who makes money for the family with his sister, Soes. They select a rich man. Soes who is good-looking gets him drunk, and when they - thoroughly plastered - get down into the street, the brother throws himself in front of the car. Pretends to be frightfully injured. This is an ideal basis for several years of blackmail.
And they tell of the neighbour, whose cat they hang from its legs out of the window, and whom the family generally disturbs with their filthy bathwater - they let the water trickle down into his flat through a hole in the floor. 

Simple survival 

This is how the figures focus on splashing and greasing towards their own final collapse. Governed, as they are, by an urge for simple survival - almost like animals. Not surprisingly, Oernsbo is convinced that the renowned theory of Darwinist development never took place. The survivors are not the fittest. There are people - like this family - who are not particularly fit for survival. They live their lives like a broken arm. That is the reality. With Oernsbo, you don’t go to the theatre to avoid reality. You go to the theatre to see real life. Particularly, its dark, disgusting and the abnormal aspects. It’s dead serious. But it is also funny! 

Lone Helmer as the mother at the first performance of Mayonæse in 1988 at the Aveny Theater. Photo: Gorm Valentin. The picture is kindly made available by the Theater Museum in Hofteatret.
Performing Arts

Did you know?

Source: Olesen og Olesens webpage

The duo Olesen-Olesen has on their latest album 'Solsort og forstærker' a song with "All is Ørnsbo today", where the Mayonæse author's surname has been given room as a prominent adjunct word in the song's chorus. The chorus reads: Everything is Ørnsbo today / Everything is half hoisted flag / Everything gives me discomfort in this satan's neighborhood.

The committee's justification

By The Committee for Performing Arts, 2006

Ever since its debut in 1988, Majonæse (in English, Mayonnaise) has shocked both the public and critics with its unbridled human hideousness. The drama is first and foremost a family drama, then a working-class drama and finally a linguistic experiment in the old tradition: The dramatist, who functions as a linguistic pressure point in some suppressed figures, which in turn creates an entertaining imbalance between roles and actors, stage and reality and between the roles’ psyche and language. All of this made into theatre. But what is the message? Ever since the Danish population, in the form of Jeppe on the Hill, woke in the baron’s bed and thereby were held accountable for their own absolute power, the national narrative has had the benefit of looking downwards at social classes in order to find the human and civilising truth about our country.

Majonæse therefore purports to have a purpose which, broadly speaking, combines Holberg’s lower class idiots and Soya’s Parasites with 1970s socio-realistic TV theatre. However, Ørsnbo says stop: The three-way equation of Lower class=Ugliness=Truth is in Ørsnbo’s case so extremely elaborate – the son in the family earns money for the family by throwing himself in front of cars, the sister extorts money from rich men using sexual favours (and, by the way, is also a snot eater), everyone users the same bath water, and no one can speak, only grunt – Ørnsbo’s true doctrine is: Stop the national narrative. There is no nation, only people, worse than and filthier than animals. And that is something we all agree on.


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