Without doubt the most read book in our house is The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr, we know the story off by heart and it is such a joy to see my children enjoy it as much as I did when I was younger. When we spotted a flyer for this show my eldest was desperate to go, and I have to admit so was I, so we booked our tickets for a performance in York at the Grand Opera House.
The anticipation in the theatre was almost tangible; with no curtain the set is on full show giving everyone time to climb up on to their adults knee and take a peek at the famous kitchen where Sophie and her Mummy sit down to tea. And whilst we’re pointing out the pans on the stove and spotting the bottles of beer Sophie and her family enter quietly through the audience. Ripples of excitement spread across the theatre as everyone starts to see them and they make their way into the kitchen on the stage.
The story begins before the book version with Sophie and her Mummy sitting down to breakfast first before elevenses then lunch, each meal is interrupted by a knock at the door. This creates a fabulous build up until finally the clock moves through to the afternoon and we know that this time the knock at the door has to be the tiger. At this point I turned to look at my children and the others on our row, it was worth it to see the looks on their faces when he finally appeared.
Whilst additional material has been added to lengthen the story the attention to detail from the original book is excellent. From obvious set designs and costume choices (the merchandise team have surely missed a trick here, they should be selling pairs of Sophie’s tights outside) to stage settings that are lifted straight from Judith Kerr’s illustrations. A particular favourite was seeing Sophie snuggling up to the tiger’s soft tail as he guzzles water from the sink just as she does in the book.
The tiger, who is silent compared to his polite and well spoken counterpart from the book, is brillantly expressive and very funny as he parades around the house even engaging everyone in some tigerobics. When it comes to eating all the food, excellent stage props ensure it “disappears” into the tiger’s mouth to gasps of astonishment from the young audience.
Songs are sung twice over or repeated throughout with the audience encouraged to join in with actions. The ticking clock song is an excellent way to anchor the story as the play goes on and we are still singing the yummy yummy sausages one at home.
Where the book is understated in its genius the show is extravagant and wonderfully dramatic. As huge fans of the book I was concerned that the story might lose its magic on stage however, there is more than enough nostalgia to keep purists happy as well as plenty of action, fun and over-the-top slapstick to entertain little people for the best part of an hour. A fabulous adaptation that does much to celebrate the charm and brilliance of this well-loved book.
Find dates and book tickets on the Tiger’s Tea Live website here.Follow @Acornbooks