Emil and the Detectives

Emil and the Detectives, foto: Gregor Gobec
A DETECTIVE STORY FOR CHILDREN. The performance Emil and the Detectives is based on a novel for children by the German writer Erich Kästner (1899–1974) who is certainly acknowledged as one of the most widely read children’s writers. The novel, which was first published in 1929, is Kästner’s first and also most popular children’s book. It was translated into more than 60 languages and has already seen quite a number of stage and film adaptations, the last one premiered in Germany in 2001.
It is a tale about a schoolboy Emil Tischbein, who lives alone with his mother in the (fictional) German town of Neustadt. During his holidays, his mother sends him to Berlin to visit his relatives with 140 marks in his pocket, which he is to give to her elderly mother. On his way he is very careful not to lose the money and even uses a needle to pin it inside the pocket of his jacket. On the train to Berlin, Emil meets a curious man, Max Grundeis. This man gives the boy a mysterious piece of chocolate, from which he immediately falls asleep. When he wakes up, Emil is appalled to discover that the money and Herr Grundeis are gone. Will he be able to get his money back? An exciting detective chase begins…

The basic tone of the show is amusing, communicative and comically playful with a prevailing atmosphere of a “children’s detective”. Besides, children will be able to learn about such basic human virtues as courage, fairness and solidarity.

--> Among the rules of writing a detective story are that the reader should be given an equal opportunity to solve the case as the detective, that the story should not contain any supernatural phenomena, that the criminal should be already mentioned at the beginning of the story, yet in such a way that he is not immediately discovered by the reader, and that the detective has to solve the case using critical thinking andnot just by chance or a happy coincidence.

  • Before you see the performance, reed or refresh your memory on the book Emil and the Detectives.

  • The theme that inspired the set design was a trip - both physical (from Neustadt to Berlin and after Berlin) and symbolic (since Emil actually grows up during the two days in the play). What scenes do you remember seeing in the performance?

  • What we usually know in detective stories is what happened, yet we don't know who did it. In the story about Emil we know, who the criminal is, but we don't know how the boys are going to find him. What other detective stories do you remember from the films you have seen or the books you have read? What is significant for a detective story? Are all the features of a detective story used in the performance as well?

  • Discuss the poverty. How do we recognise it? Why are most people ashamed of it? How are they hiding it?

  • What does it mean "to be materially rich" and to be "inwardly rich"?


Emil and the Detectives is a dynamic staging that boasts a scenery cleverly placed on the railway tracks,where it faithfully follows its source material’s storyline. Since it is also constantly exciting, funny and smart, it immediately attracts the young viewer, keeping him or her engaged all the way to its end. Its essential feature is that it brings to the fore solidarity of children, who smartly organise themselves to help the brave, but also somewhat gullible hero Emil to defeat the thief and get back his stolen money.

PREMIERE: September 2014, Grand Stage LGL
Director: Ajda Valcl
Author: Erich Kästner
Performers: Emil: Nik Škrlec g.a.; Grundeis: Jernej Kuntner; Gustav, Boy in Neustadt, Lady 2 in Berlin: Rok Kunaver; Professor, Tram conductor, Loudspeaker, Man from Berlin: Jan Bučar; Grandma, Bank clerk, Fat woman in Neustadt, Woman from Berlin: Nina Skrbinšek; Mother, Petzold, Lady 1 in Berlin: Alenka Tetičkovič / Nina Ivanič; Pony the Hat, Girl in Neustadt, Woman from Berlin: Ajda Toman / Lena Hribar g. a.; Gerold, Jeschke, Policeman 2, Mister 1 in Berlin, Waiter: Matevž Müller; Dienstag, Policeman, Fat woman’s husband in Neustadt, Mister 2 in Berlin, Voice on the radio: Jure Lajovic
Dramatization: Simona Hamer, Ajda Valcl
Stage manager: Simona Hamer
Set and costume designer: Jasna Vastl
Music: Saša Lušič
Author of songs (lyrics, music): Robert Jukič
Choreography and movement: Sebastjan Starič
Lighting designer: Igor Remeta
Proof reader: Irena Androjna Mencinger
Production: Pija Bodlaj
Performance manager and sound designer: Aca Ilić
Lighting director: Srečo Brezovar
Set technician: Tomo Hvastja
Make-up and hairstyle designer: Nina Jordanovski
Creation of the set, remodelling of props and costumes: Sandra Birjukov, Iztok Bobić, Jernej Remše (sole trader), Zoran Srdić, Marjeta Valjavec, Urška Štrukelj, Ključavničarstvo Mehle Uroš (sole trader)
Creation of straw hats: Joži Košak
Cloak-room attendants: Nina Jordanovski, Maša Erčulj