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Freiheit in Krähwinkel

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Freiheit in Krähwinkel
Freedom in Krähwinkel

A Farce with songs in 2 Acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 1st July 1848

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Mayor of Krähwinkel
Sperling, privy councillor
Rummelpuff, Commander of the Krähwinkel garrison
Pfiffspitz, editor of the Krähwinkel newspaper
Eberhard Ultra, his colleague (originally played by Nestroy)
Reakzerl, privy councillor
Frau von Frankenfrey, a widow
Siegmund Siegl,
Willibald Wachs, middle grade council officials
Frau Klöppl, a widow
Franz, a waiter
Klaus, summoner
Emerenzia, his wife
Cecilie, his daughter
Walpurga, his daughter
Pemperl, a master plumber,
Schabenfellner, a master furrier, both members of the council
Frau Pemperl
Frau Schabenfellner
Babett, Pemperl's daughter
Frau von Schnabelbeiss, privy councillor
Adele, her daughter
Eduard, servant to Frau von Frankenfrey
Citizens of Krähwinkel, guards

The action takes place in Krähwinkel.

Act 1. It is 1848, and Revolution is brewing in Krähwinkel, as it is in many parts of Europe. Some citizens are openly challenging the authorities, as represented by the Mayor, Klaus and Rummelpfuff. Klaus is alarmed by the political speechifying in the tavern. Nachtwachter ("Nightwatchman") in particular deliberately provokes Klaus and refuses to be cowed by threats. - Just as Klaus doesn't have his finger on the political pulse, he has also failed to notice the growing attachment between his daughter Cecilie and Siegmund. Instead he is convinced that Siegmund is vying with Willibald for Nachtwachter's daughter Walpurga.
The journalist Ultra arrives in Krähwinkel as the self-proclaimed vanguard of the Revolution. As he and the newspaper editor Pfiffspitz are preparing an article for the next edition, Klaus bursts in complaining that there is tumult in the streets and that a rebellious mob has broken his staff, the symbol of his authority. Ultra immediately goes to assume the leadership of the rebels. - Privy councillor Reakzerl advises the Mayor to nullify Ultra by offering him the post of censor on a good salary. Ultra is disgusted by this proposal and explains: "The censor is nothing more than a pencil turned into a man or a man turned into a pencil". In the Mayor's office Ultra encounters the recently widowed Frau von Frankenfrey, who expresses her sympathy for his liberal beliefs, much to the alarm of the Mayor, who has hopes of marrying her. She wants the Mayor to help her recover her late husband's will, which is in the hands of the Prior of the monastery. Willibald suspects that the Prior and the Mayor are colluding to profit from the will themselves. - The Mayor orders Ultra to leave town within two hours, but Ultra decides that somehow he will stay and depose the Mayor, especially now that he has fallen in love with Frau von Frankenfrey. Willibald offers him access to a set of theatrical costumes to help him in his schemes.
Klaus and his wife Emerenzia are sitting at home waiting for the Revolution to burst in on them. Ultra appears disguised as a monk, claiming to represent the Prior and complaining that the Mayor has not kept the monastery informed of the latest political developments. Klaus admits that a document arrived in Krähwinkel the previous week, signed by representatives of different countries, exhorting the authorities to adopt a constitution for Krähwinkel that enshrines certain liberties. The Mayor has of course refused to implement it, and kept the document's existence a secret. Klaus points out that there was no signature from Russia, making the document in his view invalid. Demonstrations are heard outside, and Ultra leaves. The Mayor arrives, frightened that Krähwinkel's Day of Judgement is at hand, and begging to be given refuge. During the night he is plagued by dreams of revolution.

Act 2. The theatre's costume store has come up trumps again. Ultra has disguised himself as a Russian prince, with Willibald as his interpreter and Nachtwachter as his bodyguard. The Mayor receives them enthusiastically, the more so when Willibald explains that the Tsar has heard about the offending document and demands it be given to his representatives to ensure that it cannot be implemented. - Meanwhile Klaus and Siegmund meet in the street. Still convinced that it is Walpurga Siegmund is after, Klaus persuades him to elope with his beloved, thus (Klaus hopes) breaking the spirit of her father, the rebellious Nachtwachter. He even offers to help Siegmund by collecting the young woman from a pre-arranged rendezvous and taking her to the sanctuary of Frau von Frankenfrey's home. - In the meantime Commander Rummelpfuff has quashed a rebellion. The Mayor makes a conciliatory speech to the townsfolk lamenting "misunderstandings" between himself and the citizens and pleading for a return to order, harmony and peace. But Ultra arrives, this time disguised as a "Delegate from the European Commission for Freedom and Equality". To cheers from the crowd, he announces a constitution guaranteeing freedom of the press and equal respect for all classes. The Mayor collapses in a faint.

Act 3. A "salon" has gathered at Frau von Frankenfrey's home to discuss the new developments. They are amazed when Ultra enters. Thanks to the new freedoms he can now move about freely. But the Mayor also arrives and confidently announces that the Revolution will be crushed that very day. He also informs Frau von Frankenfrey that he will marry her tomorrow, and when she appears reluctant the Mayor hints that her refusal would entail the loss of her husband's property, upon which the monastery has a claim. To his surprise Ultra intervenes and hands the lady a copy of her husband's will, explaining that he received it from the Prior in gratitude for helping him escape from the rioters. The Mayor leaves in a rage to begin the suppression of the rebellion. It occurs to Ultra that any self-respecting revolution needs some rioting students, and Frau von Frankenfrey has an idea. She asks Ultra to find some way of ensuring that the suppression of the uprising doesn't begin until the evening. - Sure enough Ultra revisits the Mayor in disguise, this time as Prince Metternich, a personage whose orders a humble town mayor could hardly disobey. The counter-revolution is postponed until after dark. - Meanwhile Nachtwachter and Willibald are busy building barricades. In the process Nachtwachter decides that this hated bourgeois is actually a thoroughly good fellow, and even agrees to Willibald marrying his daughter. - At the pre-arranged spot Klaus fetches the veiled young woman he believes to be Walpurga, and delivers her safely to Frau von Frankenfrey. - The population of Krähwinkel are now gathered at the barricades, and are confronted by gendarmes headed by an angry Mayor and Klaus. The stand-off is broken when a small but fierce-looking army of students mounts the barricade and boldly challenges the gendarmes to attack. (Frau von Frankenfrey and her delicate female friends have raided the costume store again to telling effect.) A despondent Mayor withdraws his troops, the "leader of the students" offers Ultra her hand in marriage, and a horrified Klaus discovers that he has given his own daughter to Siegmund. He resigns himself to their wedding, but swears he won't return to Krähwinkel until their first child has been baptised.


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