The Tiger Who Came to Tea – The Lowry, Salford
Writer: Judith Kerr
Adapter/Director: David Woods
Reviewer: Clare Boswell
The Tiger Who Came to Tea is currently touring the UK and is based on the 1960’s picture book written and illustrated by Judith Kerr. It has been adapted for the stage with songs and lyrics by David Wood and due to the timeless popularity of this much loved children’s tale; it was unsurprising to see a healthily attended early evening performance at The Lowry.
The production team behind the Olivier award winning production, promise to bring this much loved tale of a tiger creating tea time mayhem vividly to life with oodles of magic, sing a long songs and clumsy chaos, and in some areas this show is undoubtedly a success.
Firstly the three strong cast, Mollie Waters, Benjamin Wells and Ashley Tucker are impressively energetic and engaging and interact effortlessly with the pre-school audience at every available opportunity and the abundance of audience interaction is another strength of this production. The young spectators particularly enjoyed the nod to pantomimes ‘He’s behind you’ tradition during the Tiger’s entrance and an unexpected tiger exercise class which the audience were encouraged to mimic the moves to. There were also plenty of catchy sing-a-longs although the song about sausages and chips near the end of the show was a little elongated and the only time during the 55 minute production that audience attention seemed to wane somewhat.
Benjamin Wells showcases his versatility skills, turning his hand to the rôles of Sophie’s buffoonish Daddy who potters around the kitchen mistaking his shoes for toast and a tea-cosy for his hat and the equally clumsy milkman and postman. Wells is also excellent as the tiger and his elegant physicality effectively portrays the tiger’s gentlemanly demeanour as he rampages through the family kitchen, devouring all the food and drink in sight.
Choreography is used imaginatively to convey the passing of time, as Sophie and her Mummy journey from breakfast to tea, via elevenses and lunch and once again encourages audience interaction. There are also some delightful sleight-of hand magic tricks (thanks to Magic Advisor Scott Penrose) by which plates loaded with goodies are deftly emptied by the tiger and Susie Caulcutt’s set and costume design beautifully and accurately re-create the family house on the stage.
However, even though the production is well pitched for the pre-school age, it doesn’t quite bring to life the surrealism of the original book. The decision to keep the Tiger silent means that the book’s humorous depiction of his meticulous manners with matter of fact lines on his entrance such as ‘“Excuse me, but I’m very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you?” are lost. However despite this shortcoming, ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ still has plenty of entertaining moments to keep young fans of Kerr’s book happy.
Reviewed 23rd January 2015