One of the most beloved children’s books, Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a promising choice for a theatre adaptation. Though the original tale of the tiger that devours all the food is slightly anarchic, this version is bright and sweet, with a cosily domestic stage setting. Throughout, the show conveys a nostalgic longing for a time when elevenses and afternoon tea were essential parts of the day.
As it’s designed for children, the saccharine enthusiasm of Sophie and her parents can be seen as a positive rather than a flaw; the actors are engaging and effective, encouraging the audience to join in with some pantomime-style shouting sessions and sing-a-long songs. A couple of attempts to urge everyone to dance fall flat, however – perhaps at 10am, it’s simply too early.
The show centres on a faithfully dramatisation of the tiger’s impressively enormous appetite. Of course, it being 2015, a healthy-living message has to be included, and so a “tiger-robics” session attempts to make Kerr’s joyful tribute to greed more palatable. The tiger’s face, rather than mirroring the book’s combination of strangeness and benevolence, has something just a bit too sinisterly smirking in his expression, causing a few wails of fright when he appears onstage. However, he soon wins the children round, and at the end the audience are obviously saddened by the final assertion that he never returned.
Judging by the young audience’s enthusiastic reactions, The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a certainly an entertaining morning choice for children, although something of Kerr’s magically surreal atmosphere is lost in the transition to the stage.