Hertford Theatre, Hertford
1.30pm, 14 March 2015
Five-year-old V really likes Judith Kerr’s book The Tiger Who Came to Tea, probably because she likes a bit of the surreal. As an adult I’ve always been a bit bemused – tiger turns up at a house (a bit far fetched if you ask me), eats all the food in the house, dad comes home, there’s no food, they eat out, they buy more food at the shops and the tiger never turns up again. The end.
But David Wood’s Olivier award-nominated stage version takes the story and turns bits that get a mere cursory mention on the page into entertaining routines which bring it alive. It’s just charming from start to finish.
The set is open as you arrive which prompted V to say “they live in a very nice house” as she, along with most of the other kids happily – and also annoyingly – waved a tiger on a stick (£4 to be irritated – will I never learn?).
The three enthusiastic actors bound on and immediately break down the fourth wall, engaging with the audience before practically leaping onto the stage and keeping up the energy throughout as the superbly choreographed action is interspersed with catchy songs.
There could have been murmerings of discontent from book officianados when the show begins as it starts with a family breakfast scene rather than the “tea” in the title, but the well staged slapstick as a buffoonish dad uses a tea cosy as a hat and puts the wrong arms in his coat makes you forget there’s been a deviation and just enjoy the show.
There are similar clumsy turns from a milkman and postman as we are taken through elevenses and lunch before the long awaited appearance of the tiger with much panto-esque “He’s behind you” shouting out. Then the magic really begins!
Loaded plates of food magically empty, swiftly followed by the fridge and the larder and there’s a totally unexpected exersize class led by the tiger which has the audience swinging their tail and shaking their paws etc.
The cafe scene which has two lines in the book turns into an epic panto style singalong song about yummy scrummy sausages, chips and ice cream, which I am annoyingly still singing, even though moment I uttered one note during the show V clapped her hand over my mouth.
If any kids do keep pointing out the deviations, they will not complain about the costumes and set which are amazingly faithful, right down to the checks on Sophie’s tights, the crockery and the onions hanging on the wall, while the tiger costume is fantastic and as bright as the book which ensures it is the focus whenever he’s around.
Yes, it’s very different from the gentle rather surreal style of the book but to be honest, just to recreate what’s written in it would be a very short and not very interesting show. Lovely on the page but dull on the stage. The additions bring it to life and captured V’s imagination so much that we had to perform the whole thing again when we got home!
I really loved the tiger and all the bits he was in except the trumpet bit because it didn’t play.
Run time: 50 minutes with no interval – our favourite kid of show.
Age range: Advertised as 3+ – I would say that’s fine – it depends on the child but I know V would have enjoyed it at 2. I reckon the upper age range is about 6 or 7 though.
Other stuff: We got a postergramme for £1 and a tiger on a stick for £4. Lovely cuddly tigers were £10 and CDs £8 – I would have happily splashed out on a cuddly toy but V chose the stick and I caved.