Judith Kerr’s children’s story might be over half a century old, but it still remains popular with the UK’s little people… and their parents.
For those who are unfamiliar The Tiger Who Came To Tea is a 1968 children’s book by Judith Kerr, telling the tale of Sophie and her mummy, who are having tea in the kitchen, when suddenly the doorbell rings.
Lo and behold, it’s an anthropomorphic tiger. He’s hungry and asks if he can join them both for tea. Throwing caution to the wind in a very British way, they both agree to his request. The tiger then goes on to eat and drink everything put in front of him, as well many things that are not (Owp!). However, in contrast to the carnivorous instincts of the rest of its species the tiger does not prey on either Sophie or her mummy and eventually he makes an exit playing a trumpet.
If you, like me, read this story fairly regularly at bedtime, you will also know it takes less than 5minutes uninterrupted cover to cover. So you might be wondering how they manage to stretch a whole play out of it? Well, writer David Wood has elaborated somewhat on the original.
Daddy (played by James Carlisle), was only a minor character only in the book, but he now has an extended role at the beginning and the end. He clowns his way through most of it, appearing halfway between Darrin from the 1960s US sitcom Bewitched and Frank Spencer from its 1970s UK counterpart Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em. The actor also takes on the roles of the tiger, plus the postman and the milkman, both of who’s cameos have been extended to speaking parts.
Sophie (Jennifer Addey) and Mummy (Katie Tripp) are still major characters, both remaining on stage throughout and looking completely unphased despite there being a 3metre tall human-eating predator sitting on the other side of the kitchen table. There’s a couple of songs thrown-in, a bit of panto-style back and forth with the crowd and some neatly built sets to make all the food ‘disappear’ upon request.
If you want to introduce your little people to theatre, this is an excellent opportunity. It times in at around 55minutes, which is about as long as you can expect for little bottoms to stay comfortable, and is a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon out.
The Tiger Who Came To Tea is playing at Theatre Royal Nottingham until Saturday 15 October. Tickets are available online.
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