Emil and the Detectives at the National Theatre - reviews

Children’s classic comes to the stage in an ‘exhilarating, ambitious’ Christmas show

LAST UPDATED AT 07:49 ON Wed 11 Dec 2013
What you need to know

Reviewers are calling National Theatre’s Christmas show, a stage adaptation of Emil and the Detectives, ‘exhilarating’ and ‘ambitious’. 

Set in 1920s Berlin, Carl Miller's stage adaptation of Erich Kastner's 1929 children's classic follows young Emil as he takes a train trip to the big city alone for the first time. When he is robbed of all his money, he recruits a bunch of streetwise kids to guide him through the city and help him hunt down the sinister robber Mr Snow.

Bijan Sheibani directs the show including a cast of fifty child actors and designs by Bunny Christie. Runs until 18 March.

What the critics like

This is “an exhilarating cross between Fritz Lang’s and the Famous Five”, says Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times. It is gloriously, and properly precociously, childlike.

Emil is “an ambitious, whirling show” with thrilling projections of an expressionist cityscape and a vivid, energetic cast of child actors, says Caroline McGinn in Time Out. Miller’s adaptation is an ingenious and energetic re-imagining one of the few really great stories written about and for children.

It’s a witty, whirling production of a “funny, wishful tale”, says Paul Taylor in The Independent. Directed with playful warmth, it features brilliant design and remarkably engaging performances by the child actors.

What they don’t like

Those who love Erich Kastner’s original story may jib at Carl Miller’s rougher, grittier stage adaptation, says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. If they don’t mind the changes, adults and children should have a great time, but “something special has been lost in making the story darker and more complex”.                  · 

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