by Rachel Creaser
A perfect first theatre visit.
David Wood’s stage adaptation of Judith Kerr’s classic children’s book is visiting the West End this summer. In 2012, the show was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family.
The production, for children aged three upwards, has been carefully crafted to help make the young audience’s journey through the story as interesting and stimulating as possible.
Many theatrical conventions and devices are introduced in the play: the show opens with the cheerful ‘Hi, Hello’ song, where the actors welcome the audience to the performance and thank them for coming along. They then explain that they are here to tell a story, which will be about a girl called Sophie and her mother – it is at this point when they begin to adopt the role of their character in front of the audience. The gesture and characterisation throughout the performance is strong, providing an interesting and animated visual picture. The passing of time on this day where the story takes place is marked by clearly and is a recurring motif with a sing-song ‘tick, tock, tick, tock’.
While the narrative of the play is quite simple – a small girl’s unremarkable day at home with her mother, interspersed with visits from the postman and the milkman, is turned upside down by a visit from a well-mannered and very hungry tiger – it very clearly functions as a well-structured piece of theatre, with considered lyrics, movements, mimes, characterisations, costumes and everything else in between.
The story is brought to life by the characters, but the set, costumes and props work as fantastic accompaniments, looking as if they have come from the pen of an illustrator.
Among the use of common theatrical devices (mime, movement etc), the show also offers perhaps the most exciting theatrical element of all – magic. Food suddenly disappearing from plates, a bag which was empty becoming full without an obvious slight of hand – these are moments that children will remember and treasure as they recall their first theatre experiences.
This is a warm, friendly and fun show which is perfectly pitched for its age range. The Tiger Who Came to Tea would be a great introduction to some of the conventions of theatre, as well as its most important quality – its magic.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea runs at the Lyric Theatre at Shaftesbury Avenue in London until 7 September 2014. The show will also have a Christmas season at Birmingham Town Hall this December. For more information, visit www.thetigerwhocametotealive.com.