EMIL AND THE DETECTIVES

“Password Emil!”

‘the dialogue is snappy and funny; full of pace and wisecracks. It’s a brilliant adaptation by Carl Miller’
★★★★ Victoria Sadler HUFFINGTON POST

‘Exhilarating … Carl Miller has a long and honourable record as a writer and adapter of plays for young people … without ever condescending or watering down’
★★★★ Ian Shuttleworth FINANCIAL TIMES

‘a thrill … In Carl Miller’s savvy version this 1929 adventure story feels like a precursor of Harry Potter and is conceived on a remarkably grand scale’
★★★★ Henry Hitchings EVENING STANDARD

‘an ambitious and entertaining adaptation… as rousing and inventive as any show around’
★★★★ Dominic Maxwell THE TIMES

‘not a child or an adult didn’t sit through it entranced or emerge delighted’
David Nice THE ARTS DESK

CLASSIC ADAPTATION, FAMILY AUDIENCE, FULL-LENGTH PLAY, SUITABLE FOR A LARGE CAST, SUITABLE FOR YOUTH COMPANIES | 20+ characters

Want to perform or produce EMIL AND THE DETECTIVES?

Buy the full-length script of EMIL AND THE DETECTIVES here

Buy the edited version for schools here

An even shorter version developed specifically for primary school performance is also available. Get in touch for more details.

first performed by Mel Aigbogun, Ayishat Babatunde, Carys Barnes, Jason Barnett, Peter Bray, Evie Carricker, Oliver Clement, Jonathan Coote, Jessica Daugirda, Reece Donn, Jacqui Dubois, Damon Falck, Georgie Farmer, Samuel Fava, Judy Flynn, Gus Fontaine, Naomi Frederick, Serena Grant, Tamzin Griffin, Zayna Hajee, Keyaan Hameed, Ethan Hammer, Lucy Hutchinson, Daisy Jacob, Richard James-Neale, Emma Jerrold, Ibrahim Kanu, Ella Kenion, Billy Kennedy, Barbara Kirby, Izzy Lee, Stuart Mcquarrie, Tahj Miles, Toby Murray, Demi Papaminas, Daniel Patten, Johnny Peat, Ryan Quartley, Tim Samuels, Tom Sargent, Nathaniel Smith, Sue Wallace, Daniel Walsh and Aimee Wilmot
with The Detectives named below
and musicians Kevin Amos, Gavin Mallett, Jeff Moore, Nerys Richards, Martin Robertson and Matthew Senior

directed by Bijan Sheibani
designer Bunny Christie
lighting designer Lucy Carter
movement director Aline David
projection design 59 Productions
music Paul Englishby
music director Kevin Amos
fight director Bret Yount
sound designer  Ian Dickinson
associate sound designer Peter Rice
company voice work Kate Godfrey and Richard Ryder
staff directors Jesse Jones and Emily Kempson
assistant movement director Katie Lowe

additional credits below

BOOK TO STAGE

SOME QUESTIONS I WAS ASKED ABOUT THE WRITING

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ADAPT EMIL AND THE DETECTIVES FOR THE STAGE?

The book has great characters, like Toots, Pony, the Professor, and Tuesday – and also Mr Snow (it’s always good to have an interesting villain!) It has a big, bold story which causes plenty of problems, it happens in a fascinating time and place – Berlin in 1929 – plus, because I was writing for the National Theatre, I knew I could write for a large cast. (Which is also something that makes it a great piece to produce in a school.)

YOU’VE SAID THAT EMIL WAS A NEW KIND OF STORY WHEN IT WAS WRITTEN IN 1929, MOVING AWAY FROM IMAGINARY FAIRY-TALE WORLDS. WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO TELL THIS SORT OF STORY ON STAGE?

There will always be a place for fantasy in fiction, but I also wanted to celebrate the way exciting stories can happen in the real world. It was unusual and exciting in 1929 to have a children’s book featuring modern inventions like trams and dial telephones. Of course now, trams and dial telephones are old fashioned, so we can read Emil and the Detectives and get a sense of another time – which gives another imaginative challenge. As well as celebrating the realism that was so exciting in the original book, it’s now a chance to discover history. I believe we can understand our own world better by asking what was the same, and what was different, in the past. Which aspects of Emil’s story would be different today? And which would remain the same?

WHAT WAS MOST DIFFICULT TO TRANSLATE FROM THE BOOK TO THE STAGE? AND WHAT WAS EASIEST?

The ‘voice’ of the storyteller in the novel is funny and warm. It feels like Erich Kästner (the author) is sharing something personal with us as we read it. I decided early on not to have a ‘storyteller’ character (although I did decide to keep a character called Mr Kästner in the play). Without a storyteller, a playwright needs to finds ways to show through action what a narrator can tell readers in words, which is exciting but hard work.

Making the characters fun was easier, because they are so brilliantly written in the book. I could have written much more for Toots and Pony and all the children because Erich Kästner has created such distinctive personalities for them – they almost ‘wrote themselves’.

LOTS OF YOUNG PEOPLE’S AUTHORS SAY THAT EMIL IS ONE OF THEIR FAVOURITE BOOKS. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

It’s brilliant that it is the children who make the story happen. In lots of stories for young people written before Emil and the Detectives, the child characters had bad things done to them. but relied on adults to sort things out in the end. In Emil and the Detectives, the children band together in the book to help Emil and defeat Mr Snow. I think for authors who believe in writing for children, that makes it a bit of a landmark.

Erich Kästner had huge hopes for children – he believed that the fascism which destroyed the world of Emil and the Detectives was partly caused by the lies and cruelty of the education system in which his generation of adults were drilled. In today’s era of ‘fake news’ trying to divide people against each other, his humanity and belief in children’s ability to make friends and co-operate free from adult prejudices feels as important as ever.

‘IT IS SO NICE THAT WE HAVE EACH OTHER’

ERICH KÄSTNER AND HIS MOTHER

FROM AN ARTICLE I WROTE FOR THE NATIONAL THEATRE PROGRAMME

Emil and the Detectives was a new kind of story when its first readers discovered it in 1929. This adventure did not take place in an imaginary fairy-tale countryside. It played out on the streets of a contemporary city, bustling with documentary details from tramlines to telephone numbers. Its child detectives did not speak the ‘correct’ language of textbooks; their talk was the slang of Berlin’s streets. Emil author Erich Kästner explained that this radical departure followed advice from a waiter in his favourite café:

‘Best to write about what you know – the tube, hotels, things like that. About the children who are right there under your nose, and what we used to be like when we were children.’

So, Kästner says, he abandoned the story he was struggling to write about tigers and the South Seas and wrote about what he knew.

That decision is an innovation for which Kästner is rightly celebrated. Author and illustrator Ros Asquith calls it ‘every children’s author’s favourite book’ and Emil and the Detectives continues to inspire joyful recommendations from Maurice Sendak, Philip Pullman, Michael Rosen and many others. But there is another, equally innovative, way in which Kästner writes what he knows: Emil and the Detectives introduces a new kind of mother to children’s fiction…

YOU CAN READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE

THE DETECTIVES

The National Theatre ran workshops in local schools to find 150 enthusiastic, creative and committed young people aged nine to thirteen to become Berlin’s children of the city: The Detectives. Five hundred young people from every corner of London took part from which the theatre chose three teams of fifty – Team Drew, Team Marple and Team Sherlock. For most of them, performing in the Olivier Theatre in Emil and the Detectives was their debut on a professional stage. This short film Every Child Should Have the Opportunity to Do Drama explores that work.

Team Drew

Francessca Allen
Nicole Atymtayeva
Charles Bailey
Artemas Nicoll Cowley
Beatrix Nicoll Cowley
Noa Craig
Luke Dickinson
Jaime Duong
Lara Ferguson
Emily Foster
Marco Foster
Bradley Fraser-Brett
James Garcia
Shakira Giscombe
Ruby Greis
Dani Haggerty
Maya Howard
Alexa Kennedy
Khairya Knight
Eliyah Lassen
Indigo Lassen
Megan Lee
Sonia Lourenco
Sascha Lowdermilk-Oppenheim
Louella Lucas
Natasha Lynch
Ed Lyness
Grace McCarthy-Steed
Iona Jade McDonagh
Morgan McDonagh
Isabella Maloney
Eric Manaka
Joshua Medcalf
Esther Memeh
Arber Merovci
Isabelle Miller-Escaffey
Sebastian Miller-Escaffey
Elsa Nuthall
Jake O’Sullivan
Lucas Pinto
Isobel Roberts
Alex Robinson
Logan Scott-Brown
Ruth Skirrow
Tygar Miles Smith
Brittany Tandu
Emem Usanga
Melanie Christina Vrolijk
Oliwia Wawrzyniak
Helena Carone Wheatley

Team Marple

Francesca Barrett
Arthur Clowes
Sophie Coy
Courtney Dennis
Katie Dermody-Palmer
Darcy Dixon
Josh Dutton
Eman El-Mrabet
Millie Firkins
Calantha Gerrard
Klaidi Gjurra
Emma Olsson Gisleskog
Blue Grosset
Theo Harper
Edward Harper-Jones
Blessing Holden
Zafra Howard
Keanu Hughes
Rebecca Hutton
Alfie Keenan
Jeta Konjusha
Amina Marisa Konteh
Dioklea Krasniqi
Ben Lavelle
Enesa Luta
Celine Markantonis
Nicholas Marks
Ella Marques
Ava Nixey Moore
Jarred Morriss-Buchanan
Anna O’Daly
Modeniola Osineye
Tess Pahl
Oriana Park
Luca Patsalou
Bluebell Paul
Samuel Grant Reyntiens
Cooper Riley
Aurora Russell
Lilly Ryan
Naila Azizat Sadiku
Hannah Saxby
William De Sa Da Silva
Andrew Spielmann
Emily Spielmann
Aliyah Thomas
Georgia Thomas
Rose Ward
Jodie Witcher
Thomas Woodruffe

Team Sherlock

Thomas Adams
Kitty Allen
Grace Anderson
Deborah Babalola-Davies
George Balmer
Isobel Balmer
Finn Bennett
Million Binyam
Ella Brady
Archie Broadbridge
Benjamin Brown
Georgia-Mae Caine
Josie Cater
Tallula Christie
Jordan Clemens
Heloise Devaney-Jones
Anne-Elise Efejuku
Marie-Antoinette Efejuku
Zara Hammon
Hal Henderson
Hannah Isaac
Megan Kellegher
Sam Kelly
Elle King
Molly Kirkham
Ava Knight
Leah Knight-Barrett
Sean McCrystal
Malachy O’Connor
Maryalice Ogunlana
Erykah Oweh
Katherine Parker
Isabella Partridge
Louis Partridge
Fredrick Pearson-Tay
Joe Pike
Maya Rivers-Graham
Meena Sears
Elena Schiavo
Daisy Sneath
Molly Sneath
Keeley Taverner
Ramani Thevathasan
Ebony Thomas
Sam Thomas
Harley Toth
Ottaline Wallace
Sophie Wilson
Katherine Wilshire
Kristen Winrow

produced by the National Theatre

production manager Igor
stage manager Gemma Tonge
deputy stage managers Jo Nield and Anna Cole
assistant stage managers Chris Booth and Laura Sully
costume supervisor Caroline Waterman assisted by Sukie Kirk
prop supervisor Chris Lake
project draughting Paul Halter
digital art Dan Radley-Bennett

deputy production manager Gary Pell
assistant to the designer Verity Sadler
assistant to the lighting designer Daniel Haggerty
children’s casting Charlotte Sutton
adult casting Wendy Spon and Charlotte Sutton
children’s administrator Jo Hawes
head chaperone Denise Smith
Berlin historical guide Stefan Zollhauser
production photography Marc Brenner
assistant producer Marianne Dicker