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“Nur keck!”

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]“Nur keck!”
Sheer Bravado

A Farce with songs in 3 Acts
By Johann Nestroy
Not performed in Nestroy’s lifetime. Premiere: 2nd July 1943 at the Vienna Burgtheater

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Herr von Graufalter, a wealthy capitalist
Heinrich Still, his nephew
von Holzstamm, head forester
Anna, his daughter
Herr von Wollberger, a millionaire factory and property owner
Amalie, his wife
Fräulein von Jahrzahl
Ida, her foster daughter
Federkleks, Wollberger’s clerk
Philippine, his wife
Gutmann, surgeon
Hantig, moneychanger
Anton, Graufalter’s servant
Frau Sorgner, Graufalter’s housekeeper
Margreth, Federkleks’ maid

Scene: A provincial town. Graufalter's house, then Holzstamm's house.

Act 1. [Song, Heinrich with Stegreif: "I used to live such an orderly life, but oh dear, if my uncle were to see me now"] - Heinrich, who is always afraid his wealthy uncle Graufalter will find out about his debts and his lackadaisical lifestyle, has made the acquaintance of the good-for-nothing Stegreif (lit. Improvised). The latter invites himself back to Heinrich's uncle's house and can't understand why he is so fearful of being found out.
Graufalter meanwhile is primarily concerned with his forthcoming wedding. The terms of his brother-in-law's will dictate that he must marry Holzstamm's young daughter Anna, while Heinrich must wed Fräulein von Jahrzahl, a lady well past her youth. In that event, each will inherit half a million guilders. If one of them refuses to wed his designated spouse, all the money will go to the other. - Holzstamm has been trying to persuade Graufalter not to comply with the terms of the will, because he fears that the enormous age difference between his daughter and her intended can only lead to unhappiness. But Graufalter will not be moved, and Anna seems perfectly willing to marry an old man for such a large sum.
In Graufalter's house Holzstamm meets Stegreif and decides to invite him home. Stegreif extends the invitation to his new friend Heinrich. Since there is a creditor waiting outside for him, Heinrich is only too willing to make a getaway.
Holzstamm still hopes to dissuade Anna from marrying Graufalter by showing her an example of marital unhappiness arising from a large age gap. As it is, the only couple she knows where the gap is comparable are Wollberger and his young wife Amalie, who are quite happy together. So Holzstamm pays Wollberger's clerk Federkleks (Inksmudge) and his young wife Philippine, who are also happily married, to pretend to be utterly miserable together. Anna observes their marital squabbling, but is unimpressed.
Stegreif now arrives at Holzstamm's house and introduces Heinrich as his friend August Holmfeld. The latter promptly falls head over heels in love with Anna. As he has never been told about the terms of his relatives' will, he is horrified to hear that Anna is to be married in a week - In the meantime Philippine and Federkleks are becoming so carried away by the charade of their "unhappy marriage" that the fiction is becoming reality, and they are close to filing for divorce. Federkleks gets wind of Heinrich and Anna's feelings for each other, but Stegreif promises to get him a good job in town if he will keep stumm. - Graufalter arrives, and immediately recognises "August Holmfeld" as his nephew Heinrich. But Stegreif somehow persuades him that August is actually Heinrich's double. Anna and Amalie see through this deception but decide to keep quiet. It is agreed that August should stay until the evening, when Heinrich is due to arrive and the question of identity can be settled.


Act 2. Wollberger is beginning to feel jealous, because Graufalter is displaying an amorous interest, not in his intended, Anna, but in Wollberger's wife Amalie. To allay his suspicions he engages Federkleks to spy on Amalie. Simultaneously Federkleks is employed by Graufalter to help him win favour with Amalie. - The creditor Hantig now turns up and threatens to have Heinrich arrested if he won't repay the 300 guilders he owes him. Anna and Amalie enter, and Stegreif misleads them into thinking that Hantig has challenged August to a duel. As Hantig waits impatiently for his "opponent", Heinrich holds back, hoping that the prospect of his imminent death will induce Anna to confess her love for him. Equally, Anna waits for some parting kind words from Heinrich. As a result, neither of them say anything. - Amalie promises Anna that if the duel goes in August's favour she will pretend to respond to Graufalter's advances to get him to call off the wedding.
Graufalter now accosts Stegreif and asks him how he came to be staying in his house. Never at a loss for an answer as his name implies, Stegreif explains that he once lent Heinrich 300 guilders, because the nephew had inherited his uncle's generosity of spirit and wanted to help a poor family. Stegreif had come to ask for the loan to be repaid. Under these circumstances Graufalter is only too glad to pay Stegreif back. As "August" appears unmoved by this conversation, Graufalter is genuinely convinced that the young man is a double of his nephew, and allows him to leave the house without waiting for Heinrich to arrive. Holzstamm is suspicious of Stegreif and intends to throw him out, but Stegreif tells him who August really is, reveals that he and Anna are falling in love, and admits his own role in promoting their relationship. Holzstamm is delighted to give Stegreif a free hand if he will also agree to sort out Federkleks and Philippine's problems.
Heinrich now returns as himself, and gets Federkleks to report to Anna that August has been killed in the duel, because he is keen to see how she will react. She collapses in a faint. When she comes to, Heinrich explains that he is her beloved August's double. But Anna sees through this charade at once and decides to punish Heinrich. She pretends to be inconsolable, so that Heinrich has to declare his love and confess that he and August are one and the same. But Anna refuses to believe this comforting lie, and is no more persuaded by Federkleks and Stegreif's confirmation.
Fräulein von Jahrzahl now arrives with her foster daughter Ida, and Stegreif presents himself to her as her designated husband. He proceeds to behave with such appalling rudeness that she is shocked to the core. Stegreif leaves the room for a moment, promptly returns as a completely different character, polite and reserved, and explains that he is the rude one's twin brother. The Fräulein declares that she would rather not marry either of them, but for her foster daughter's sake is unwilling to renounce the inheritance.
That night, Stegreif implements his scheme to repair the marriage of Federkleks and Philippine, and lures each of them separately to the cemetery. Legend has it that anyone seen loitering in the cemetery on that particular night is doomed to die within a year. Stegreif makes sure they each spot other without realising that the other has spotted them.


Act 3. As proof of his love for her, Amalie demands of Graufalter a written declaration that he will decline to marry Anna and renounce the inheritance. - Graufalter then meets Fräulein von Jahrzahl and her foster daughter Ida, and misleadingly suggests that Heinrich would fulfil the terms of the will if he were to marry Ida. The Fräulein and Ida are actually Stegreif and Federkleks in disguise, and they indignantly reject this proposal. - Wollberger has been warned by an anonymous letter-writer (Federkleks) that his wife is about to run off with Graufalter. A distraught Wollberger is lovingly comforted by Ida (again Stegreif in disguise) who tells him that Graufalter is refusing to let Heinrich marry Fräulein von Jahrzahl. In that case her foster mother should at least be allowed to console herself with the inheritance. She asks him therefore as executor of the will to provide her foster mother with a certificate that will allow her to inherit the money in any event. Wollberger, who is gradually succumbing to the charms of this delightful girl, is still hesitating when Fräulein von Jahrzahl enters (Federkleks in disguise). Ida tells her foster mother that Wollberger was trying to seduce her, and both women threaten to report the matter to his wife. An embarrassed Wollberger hurriedly agrees to provide the certificate they need.
Anna has heard about Graufalter's agreement with Amalie. He now wants Anna to marry Heinrich. But he is very angry when Anna tells him that August was indeed Heinrich. Anna in her turn is angry with Heinrich for making advances to Fräulein von Jahrzahl.
Federkleks and Philippine kiss and make up because each is convinced that the other has only a year to live. - Wollberger's suspicions are aroused by a carriage at the gate that is about to depart. Inside he finds two muffled passengers whom he takes to be Amalie and Graufalter, and in a rage he drags them from the coach. They are in fact Fräulein von Jahrzahl and Ida, who intended to slip away unnoticed. Wollberger is struck by the difference in appearance between the two women now and his bittersweet encounter with them earlier. When Anna and Amalie appear, the denouement is set in motion. Amalie explains that she wanted to punish Graufalter for his lewdness and save Anna from an unhappy marriage. Heinrich shows Anna that the Fräulein he was courting was just Federkleks in disguise. Philippine and her husband confess their fears for each other's health and mercifully enlightened by Stegreif, who also explains why he pursued Fräulein von Jahrzahl's claim: he and Ida are in love.


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