EMIL AND THE DETECTIVES
by Erich Kästner, adapted by Carl Miller.
Olivier Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 18 March 2014.
Runs: 2hr One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 11 December.
Following the money if not odds-on favourite.
Alongside George Kaiser’s From Morning to Midnight for adults, Bijan Sheibani’s new production of Erich Kästner’s 1929 popular children’s novel, Emil and the Detectives offers something similar for children.
The backdrop to both Kaiser and Kästner are banks, hyper-inflation, the Great Depression and the rise of fascism, unstated as yet, lurking just around the corner.
Dennis Kelly’s adaptation of From Morning to Midnight implies money is the root of all evil; Kästner’s eponymous child hero is also caught on the horns of a financial dilemma. Emil’s hard-working single mum, Ida, entrusts Emil with 140 marks to give to his grandmother on his arrival in Berlin, only for it to be snatched away by the ironically named Mr Snow (anything but), con artist and thief.
The rest of the story involves Emil in pursuit of Mr Snow with the help of other Berlin children, some living on the street.
Carl Miller’s adaptation couldn’t be clearer about the stigma attached to poverty, and being poor. Though some areas of Miller’s text are less distinct than one might like – despite the now ever-present head mikes – current day resonances are very present. And not only with regard to money.
Emil and the Detectives is very much a product of Germany in the 1920s, which, with its rigid authoritarianism and conformity, may be a far cry from Britain 2013. All the same, the relationship of child to adult authority, the perceived dangers of the Big City and the need to separate yet retain the love of a dear parent is as relevant to young audiences as ever.
Sheibani’s production makes adults grotesque bullies against a tumultuous, pulsating Berlin drawn as if from Fritz Lang’s archetypal German expressionistic movie Metropolis, a place of contrasting light and shadows, mechanistic structures and spiralling sewers in which our hero finally tracks down Mr Snow.
His production scurries and hurries yet lacks the collective momentum that the addition of 50 London schoolchildren a performance should have created. Less powerful than previous National Theatre Christmas shows, such as His Dark Materials or Coram Boy, it will no doubt still capture imaginations.
Emil Tischbein: Ethan Hammer/Toby Murray/Daniel Patten.
Ida Tischbein: Naomi Frederick.
Mrs Wirth: Tamzin Griffin.
Neustadters and Berliners: Jason Barnett, Peter Bray, Jonathan Coote, Jacqui Dubois, Judy Flynn, Naomi Frederick, Tamzin Griffin, Richard James-Neale, Emma Jerrold, Ella Kenion, Barbara Kirby, Tim Samuels, Sue Wallace.
Mr Snow: Stuart McQuarrie.
Mrs Jakob: Ella Kenion.
Mrs Keuchen: Judy Flynn.
Grandma: Sue Wallace.
Pony the Hat: Jessica Daugirda/Lucy Hutchinson/Izzy Lee.
Miss Zettel: Judy Flynn.
The Man from the 177 Tram: Jason Barnett.
Toots: George Farmer/Samuel Fava/Billy Kennedy.
Miss Kloss: Emma Jerrold.
Mrs Gans: Barbara Kirby.
The Professor: Oliver Clement/Tom Sargent/Daniel Walsh.
Mrs Tuesday: Ella Kenion.
Mr Tuesday: Jonathan Coote.
Tuesday: Keyaan Hameed/Johnny Peat/Nathaniel Smith.
Hilde: Serena Grant/Demi Papaminas/Aimee Wilmot.
Officer Weiss: Tim Samuels.
Arnie Middleton: Mel Aigbogun/Ibrahim Kanu/Tahj Miles.
Silent Irene/Isaac: Carys Barnes/Damon Falck/Zayna Hajee.
Petzold: Reece Donn/Gus Fontaine/Ryan Quartley.
Gerda: Ayishat Babatunde/Evie Carricker/Daisy Jacob.
Madame Mimi: Jacqui Dubois.
Mrs Schlesinger: Ella Kenion.
The Detectives: 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/
Francesca Barrett, Arthur Clowes, Sophie Coy, Courtney Dennis, Katie Dermody-Palmer, Darcy Dixon, Josh Dutton, Eman El-Mrabet, Millie Firkins, Calantha Gerrard, Emma Olsson Gisleskog, Klaidi Gjurra, 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/
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, Elena Schiavo, Meena Sears, Daisy Sneath, Molly Sneath, Keeley Taverner, Ramani Thevathasan, Ebony Thomas, Sam Thomas, Harley Toth, Ottaline Wallace, Sophie Wilson, Katherine Wilshire, Kristen Winrow,
Director: Bijan Sheibani.
Designer: Bunny Christie.
Lighting: Lucy Carter.
Movement: Aline David.
Projections: 59 Productions.
Music: Paul Englishby.
Music Director: Kevin Amos.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Sound: Ian Dickinson.
Associate sound: Peter Rice.
Company Voice work: Kate Godfrey,Richard Ryder.
Assistant movement: Katie Lowe.
This production of Emil and the Detectives opened in the Olivier Theatre, London, on 4 December 2013