Stephanie Summers as Mummy, Abbey Norman as Sophie and Thomas O'Connell as the Tiger

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Birmingham Town Hall


It was 1968 when Sophie first opened her door to a very polite and very hungry tiger and, half a century on the striped and less than ferocious feline is still turning up at four on the dot for sandwiches, cakes, buns . . . in fact, anything remotely edible.

Judith Kerr’s tale has never been out of print in its 50 years and this charming production, a mere stripling in only it’s tenth year, hits just the right note for its young audience.

Abbey Norman as Sophie - she was Sopie in the original production – Stephanie Summers as Mummy and Thomas O’Connell as Daddy involve the audience from the first moment with a singalong – and they never lose them.

We start with breakfast and daddy getting ready to go to work – with a level of incompetence that suggests his shift will be over long before he arrives in a simple episode of slapstick to delight youngsters.

O’Connell then reappears as a milkman who carries more stock than your average Sainsbury’s with everything you could possibly want . . . except milk

Then he pops up as a postman whose sense of direction makes you wonder how he ever manages to find a letterbox, then he finally arrives as a very large, very elegant Tiger.

And all along we have the hands of a clock moving with the audience shouting out the hours, one, two, three . . . Children love to be involved but it has to be on their terms, terms they can relate to and understand, and this production, directed by David Wood, who also adapted the book, manages just that. Nothing too sophisticated, nothing too wordy, just simple join in stuff and remaining faithful to the book – after all that is what the majority of the audience have come to see.

The show included some effective simple effects with the Tiger cleaning plate after plate, including a cake which cleverly and magically vanished supposedly down the Tiger’s gullet. Children were also amazed as shelves of food in the pantry and fridge vanished in the same way.

Most impressive of all was Mummy’s empty shopping trolley which was miraculously filled in just a walk around the stage.

A bout of Tigerobics had the children up and joining in although the Yummy Yummy Sausages song as a round was perhaps a musical stave too far – it didn’t quite work, but the children enjoyed it, particularly when singing in unison.

My grandchildren, aged three and seven, liked the show, although my seven-year-old, with about 40 productions under his belt, now sees shows with a critic’s eye, aware of sets, lights and sound – he thought the fridge clearing was well down, by the way.

And the magic and technical all worked, Susie Caulcutt’s setting is bright and cheerful, Tony Simpson’s lighting design is to the point, highlighting the parts that matter - I particularly liked the light on the set breaking like dawn, with brightness coming in a wave - while Shock Productions provide some amusing sound effects, particularly for our hungry Tiger.

The book is short, 32 pages, with not a lot of words – which is what makes it ideal for youngsters, so Wood as done well to turn it into 55 minutes of charming, delightful introduction to theatre for little ones, entertaining, fun and bringing to life the book with words, music and actions. To 13-01-19.

Roger Clarke



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