Stuart McQuarrie as Mr Snow (credit Marc Brenner)
THE annual Christmas show at the National Theatre is always hotly anticipated and this year's gem is a production of Erich Kästner’s 1920s book Emil and the Detectives.
It stars a gaggle of about 50 kids who dominate the stage whenever they are on it. Indeed they seem to relegate the adult actors to mere supporting cast members for much of the time.
In short they are a joy to watch.
The story of a young boy's adventure in the big city is a good one too and will appeal to most kids. Young Emil is despatched from his small home town of Neustadt to Berlin by his mother. He takes with him 140 marks which he is instructed to give to his Grandmother when she meets him at the station.
However, on the train to Berlin he meets the shady and franky creepy bowler-hatted Mr Snow, brilliantly played by Stuart McQuarrie.
Mr Snow deftly steals the money and leaves poor Emil alone and frightened - not least about what his mother will say about the matter.
But Emil is made of stern stuff and not one to be downcast for long, he enlists the help of Berlin's children to find Mr Snow and get his money back.
There then follows a brilliantly choreographed race through the streets of Berlin to find the thief and a chance for the youngsters to show the audience what they are made of.
The parts played by the children are rotated between three different sets of youngsters and the night I saw it Ethan Hammer played Emil, giving an assured performance.
He was ably assisted by Georgie Farmer as Toots, Izzy Lee as his tom-boyish bike-riding cousin, Pony the Hat and Keeyan Hameed who won the audience's hearts with his portrayal of the put upon but persistent Tuesday, who is continually assigned to man the phones rather than get stuck into the action.
The whole production was great and Bunny Christie's amazing set should get a special mention as it was stunning.
But the stars are of course the children and seeing them rush pell mell through the stalls' seats in pursuit of the dastardly Mr Snow and the stolen cash was fabulous.
Emil and the Detectives is on until Tuesday, March 18 at the Olivier Theatre. Tickets from £12. Call the box office on 020 7452 3000.