Artistic Discoveries in European Schoolyards

Péter Horváth (Hungary)

Emil and the detectives

Emil és a detektívek

Text Extract


CLYDE: It’ll be great, you’ll see…look, there’s a playground, a theatre, and a hotel…A café on the corner…It’s a busy place. We’ll soon have another thousand, enough to get us out to the island.

BONNIE: Okay. Let’s start, then.

BOTH: From where do you come, and where will you go?
For what are you waiting? We’d like to know.
The stars above entice,
Like angels made of ice.

Half the world is on your back,
In a star-bespangled pack.
If you idle away each day,
The good in life a dream will stay.

Whatever the worth of this or that,
The world’s not based on tit-for-tat.
Whatever the worth of this or that,
The world’s not based on tit-for-tat.

GRUNDEIS: Practice, practice, practice! Keep on singing out of tune, little gangsters…

BONNIE: Creep!

CLYDE: Hey, don’t knock your audience. Let’s pick up where we left off…

The wind is tossing you around.
What will you do when it dies down?

(The twins, J, and Little Net dance across.)

Understand, no matter how,
That life’s expecting you right now.
Understand, no matter how,
That life’s expecting you right now.

From where do you come, and where will you go?
For what are you waiting? We’d like to know.

EMIL (running in at breakneck speed from where Grundeis came earlier): Excuse me…have you seen a guy just now who looked a bit…you know?

BONNIE: A bit what?

EMIL: As if he were, you know, but he’s not!

CLYDE: Listen, buddy, we’re the celebrities round here…

EMIL: Blast.

CLYDE: Don’t be whining around here, buster, it’s bad for business. Toss us some change instead.

EMIL: I haven’t got any money! I’ve been robbed!

CLYDE: That’s what happens when you don’t keep an eye on your stuff, pal.

EMIL: I did! I had two hundred and sixty thousand forints in an envelope, pinned inside my pocket!

CLYDE: Why were you walking around with so much money?

EMIL: I wasn’t walking around, I was on the train from Newtown this morning…

CLYDE: Then go on back the way you came.

BONNIE: Leave him alone, can’t you see he’s a country kid?

EMIL: Right, I’m not from the capital. I’ve never set foot here before. My father lives here, he’s been living here since he left us. The money was for him, a loan from my mother. But the thief stole it while I was asleep. He got off. The train was already pulling out when I realized what was going on. I spotted him, jumped off, and ran after him… after the thief…I don’t know where… I followed him onto a tram…I didn’t have a ticket…the thief got off, I did too… Then he turned a corner around here and disappeared. (He pulls himself together.) You must have seen him!

CLYDE: We haven’t seen anybody.

BONNIE: Was he wearing red shoes with those pointy toes?

EMIL: Right, and a black leather jacket.

CLYDE: Skinny trousers, a pointy moustache…

EMIL: You saw him?!

CLYDE: No. We don’t waste time looking around, mate, we’re buskers. (They start singing, then stop.)

EMIL: That’s it, it’s all over, I’m going to live under the bridge… together with my father, because I can’t ever go back home…It’s all my fault!

CLYDE: Bonnie, we have other things to do.

BONNIE (to Emil): All right, quit blubbering. The man you’re looking for is in that café, so just call Scotland Yard.

EMIL: Call what?

CLYDE: The cops, pal. The police!

EMIL: No! Not the police! They might be looking for me!

CLYDE: All right, pipsqueak, get lost. You never saw us. (To Bonnie.) I almost fell for his sob-story…

EMIL: I’m not lying! Yesterday, we sprayed graffiti all over the school fence. We signed our names and everything. And no one in Newtown has a name as stupid as mine…

BONNIE: Why, what’s your name?

EMIL: Emil.

CLYDE: Well, that is a downer, Emil.

BONNIE: Why, is Joey any better?

CLYDE: Cut it out, Judy! That’s why we made Bonnie and Clyde our stage-names! The whole neighborhood knows us by those names, and soon the whole world will!

BONNIE: All right, Emil.

CLYDE: We’ll help you.

EMIL: How?

CLYDE: Give me your cell phone.

EMIL: I haven’t got one.

CLYDE: How can you exist without a cell phone?

EMIL: Dad lives in Budapest, but he’s down on his luck, my mother’s is a hairdresser in Newtown…

CLYDE: She gets tips, doesn’t she?

EMIL: Not in Newtown. People don’t have much money there, most of them cut their own hair, and even dye it at home.

*BONNIE *(hands her cell phone to Clyde): Here. The battery’s running low though.

CLYDE: I’ll text, that uses up less.

EMIL: I don’t understand…who is he texting?

BONNIE: VJ. (Pronounced VeeJay).

EMIL: VJ. Who’s he?

BONNIE: One of our buddies. He’s got his own camera. A rich kid, but he’s all right.

CLYDE: His real name is Eugene. That’s a stupid name too, isn’t it?

EMIL: My father’s Eugene too….

CLYDE: See what I mean?

BONNIE: He did this video clip of us, at school.

CLYDE: I’m a vampire in it, white face, black cloak, and teeth like this.

BONNIE: And one of our other buddies uploaded it on Youtube.

CLYDE: Yeah, Little Net…!

EMIL: But what do you want me to do?

BONNIE: VJ’ll bring the camera, and we’ll make a film of us catching the thief.

EMIL: I see!…No, I don’t…

CLYDE: There. He’s already texted back. He’ll be here in ten minutes. He’s bringing the crew.

EMIL: What?

BONNIE: A couple of others are coming. They’ll be in the film too.

EMIL: But this isn’t a film! It’s my tragic life!

BONNIE: All right, just stop moaning. You’re always moaning!

CLYDE: It’ll be a brilliant little film, Emil. An experimental thriller, with a happy end.

EMIL: What do we do in the meantime?

CLYDE: Tell us the beginning of the story. So we’ll be in the know by the time the others get here.

BONNIE: Newtown to the Western Terminal!

EMIL: And what if that scoundrel gets away meanwhile?

CLYDE: Chill, he won’t. That’s where he went in, that’s where he’s got to come out. Newtown to the Western Terminal!

BONNIE: Go on, tell us! How did your “great adventure” begin, Emil?

EMIL (inner voice): Now what do I do? These two are crazy. But no one else will help. (“Live.”) My mother put me on the noon train from Newtown…

CLYDE: Bonnie, title song!
(English Translation Eugene Brogyányi)


Emil and the Detectives is a famous classical novel by the German writer Erich Kästner. It’s about the adventures of a young boy who lives in the countryside. He goes on a journey to Berlin. He has never been there before. He falls asleep on the train and his money disappears from his pocket. He thinks that one of his fellow passengers was the thief – an adult. Looking trough the train-window he glimpses the suspected thief, and gets off the train to follow him. He doesn’t know where he is and he doesn’t how to catch the thief in the capital city which he doesn’t know at all. Some street-children help him to find out where the suspect is and finally, to catch him.

The story in the original novel takes place in Germany in the first part of the last century – a little bit far away from the present-day teenagers, who – unfortunately – don’t read too much. But the story about the solitude of children and about the unknown frightening adult-world must be interesting and exciting for them.

Adapting the story to contemporary Hungary, Peter Horvath changes the names of some of the minor characters and creates a new image for them, so that they can be easily identified with by today’s young audiences. Two young street musicians, one delivery boy, one computer nerd, two twin girls and one boy who is always using his video camera, help Emil to fight against the adult-world and the thief as well. They catch him (a real gangster) in a theatre, in which every character (and audience member) takes part in a strange, live-TV-show.

Whilst sticking to the main events of the original story, Peter Horvath adds some new aspects to it using the language of the children of today.


Péter Horváth


1st Opening Kolibri Theatre Budapest, March 13, 2010

M: 9
F: 5