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Sieben/Zwölf Mädchen in Uniform

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Sieben/Zwölf Mädchen in Uniform
Seven/Twelve Girls in Uniform

Farce in one act
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 5th December 1827 in Graz
[Based on Sieben Mädchen in Uniform by Louis Angely, 1825]

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

von Osmond, Governor of a small town
Henri, his son, in love with Sophie
Victor, his cousin, a secretary
Briquet, old and in poor health, commander of a run-down garrison
Sansquartier, one-eyed, and Bataille, lame, members of the garrison
Julie, Victor’s sister
Sophie, in love with Henri
and Jeanette, Victorine, Leonore, Anna, Toni, Marie, Ida, Henriette, Euphrosine, Elise (all girls disguised as soldiers)
Prisoners (brothers to the above disguised girls)
A messenger

The action takes place in a dilapidated coastal fortress

Briquet, commander of an old coastal fortress, has received a despatch the previous day from the Governor’s secretary, Victor, informing him that his garrison, until now consisting of the one-eyed Sansquartier and the lame Bataille, is to be reinforced with 12 extra men. The reinforcements are deemed necessary for the supervision of the garrison’s new prisoners. The Governor has specifically requested a “soft” regime for the new recruits, who are also permitted to visit the prisoners whenever they like. Briquet is delighted at this upgrading of his garrison. When the twelve (rather delicate-looking) soldiers arrive, Briquet orders the one-eyed Sansquartier to demonstrate the drill, which he does to ludicrous effect. Everything goes to plan and the “reinforcements” settle cheerfully into their billets. The new prisoners have been arrested on the orders of the Governor for disturbing the peace during Carnival. Only the Governor’s son Henri has been locked up for a different “crime”, namely threatening to elope with a girl when his father refused his permission to marry her. Briquet gives one of the new recruits (Julie) permission to deliver a letter to Henri. He is overjoyed when he recognises Julie and she tells him that Victor has provided them all with uniforms and even some basic military training. Henri worries only that his father may appear unannounced. When Briquet invites the new guards for a drink in his quarters, Sophie manages to remain behind with Henri. But their romantic interlude is interrupted by Sansquartier, who insists on reading aloud passages from Schiller’s “Don Carlos” and “Maid of Orleans”. Briquet, discovering that one of the new guards (Sophie) has abandoned his post, proceeds to lock him in the dungeon. At that moment the Governor arrives at the fortress, but the girls’ fears that he will recognise them are not confirmed. The Governor announces that an “Algerian pirate frigate” has been sighted off the coast. If this enemy should attempt to come ashore, he expects the guards to sacrifice their lives in defence of the fortress. Briquet is ecstatic at the prospect of a real battle, but the girls go wobbly at the knees. The Governor demands that his son accompany him back to town. Henri cannot admit why he is tied to the fortress, until his father and Victor burst out laughing and confess that they know all about the girls’ escapade. Now it’s their turn to play a joke. On condition that they go along with the ruse, the Governor orders all the prisoners to be released, which annoys Briquet no end. The girls are now facing the approaching battle with apprehension. They consider escape, but realise that would mean leaving the imprisoned Sophie behind. They finally decide to stay a few more hours in the hope of rescue by Victor and Henri. Meanwhile Briquet and Sansquartier keep watch for the supposed pirates, but have problems using the telescope. After much urging from the girls, Briquet has Sophie released. While Sansquartier drills the “soldiers”, a messenger delivers a despatch from the Governor announcing an imminent attack by pirates. Briquet is ecstatic, but the terrified girls desert, run back to the barracks and lock the door. Briquet’s fighting spirit is unbroken and together with Sansquartier he prepares to defend the fortress. The battle is brief, and Briquet recognises the pirate leader as the Governor in disguise. Victor declares the barricaded soldiers to be prisoners of war, and they all troop out of the barracks with bowed heads, now in their women’s attire. At first they protest at their capture, but when the pirates remove their false beards and reveal themselves as the girls’ brothers, all are happy, except for Briquet. To cap it all, the Governor gives Henri and Sophie his blessing.


The Plays of Johann Nestroy. A directory of synopses prepared by Julian Forsyth & Zoe Svenson.
Funded by the Austrian Cultural Forum and Arts Council England. © Moving Theatre 2004