You are here:

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]The Plays of Johann Nestroy
A directory of synopses
prepared by Julian Forsyth and Zoe Svenson

Index of synopses English translations/adaptations

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum


This directory of synopses was commissioned by Moving Theatre as the first phase of a major research and development programme on the works of Johann Nestroy. Funded by The Austrian Cultural Forum and Arts Council England (South East), Moving Theatre commissioned Julian Forsyth and Zoe Svenson, who undertook to read the works of Nestroy and have prepared a synopsis from their readings of each one.

Further discussion with Zoe and Julian is allowing Moving Theatre to progress to the second stage of this project: to take one of Nestroy’s untranslated masterpieces and to work with a commissioned playwright, to create a living comic work for the company to produce as a mainstream national touring show, in due course.

This directory, however, was always designed to be more than simply a means to that end. Equally important is to provide a resource for producing theatres and companies; professional, amateur, community, as well as for drama schools, universities, schools and colleges.

Johann Nestroy wrote over eighty comic plays in the 1840’s and 50’s. Whilst half have been revived for the modern German speaking audience and a number are integral to the Viennese repertoire, few have been translated into English and one only has become well known in this country. Yet that one, Einen Jux will er sich machen, has twice become a classic of the English stage – first as Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker (and thereafter the musical Hello Dolly!) and for the second time as the comic masterpiece On The Razzle – translated by Stephen Plaice and adapted by Tom Stoppard, for the National Theatre in 1981. And On The Razzle remains a vivid demonstration of the mine of un-tapped potential in Nestroy’s material. Here are a wonderful collection of plots: broad comedies in a populist tradition. Tradionally satirical and full of music, they are full of schemes and scams, machinations and intrigues for casts of all shapes and sizes. Our hope is that all sorts of companies will thumb through and embark on translations and adaptations for their own purposes – very much in the same vein as works of Feydeau have been explored by professionals and amateurs alike over the years.

My thanks again to the Austrian Cultural Forum and Arts Council, England, who supported and continue to support this programme. Thanks also to Julian and Zoe: only a labour of love could sustain so many entirely original synopses and their additional feedback to me. A big thank you to Prof Edgar Yates and to Dr John McKenzie who have both readily and freely given me their advice and the benefit of their enormous knowledge and expertise in the field. And thanks to Tom Dale Keever, unearthing translations for me at Columbia University. My thanks, finally, to the cast and production team of Moving Theatre’s own 1999 production of On The Razzle, the schemes, scams, machinations and intrigues of which so inspired me in this research and development project.

Jonathan Banatvala
Artistic Director

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