Review: Scenes For Survival, Tiger is Out, National Theatre of Scotland

Short and sweet, ​Tiger Is Out​ is an extract from Oliver Emanuel’s forthcoming play ​I Am Tiger ​which shows much promise. Filmed in isolation, the five minute short follows Laura (Ava Hickey), whose parents have brought her a tiger following the recent death of her brother Danny. As she mourns her brother, Laura is also learning how to navigate day to day life with a dangerous animal prowling her home, while her parents remain seemingly oblivious to Laura’s concerns. It’s an intimate, intense and emotional little piece which is instantly relatable to anyone who has ever felt as though they are dealing with grief, loss or anxiety alone.

Ava Hickey is relatable, believable and lyrical in her performance as Laura, finding a great balance of childishness and gravity in the character. One minute she is confidently parroting facts from google, like many curious children do, next she is catching her words mid-sentence as her facts begin to hit too close to home. Emanuel’s script flows effortlessly from the magical realism of the tiger, to Laura’s internal fears about sharing her emotions with others. It becomes clear very quickly that the tiger is a stand in for a much larger issue, and Laura’s response to lock herself in her bathroom, out of sight and out of reach from other people is related to the pressure she is under to keep her feelings to herself.

Although we don’t meet Laura’s parents in this extract, from her descriptions of them, and how they came to buy the tiger, it suggests that they are coping with Danny’s death by avoiding talking about it and distracting themselves with a deadly new pet. Navigating grief alone is difficult and it can make us do strange things, but it becomes more complicated when multiple people in an enclosed space are grieving together. One person’s coping mechanism can make another person feel worse, in this case, her parents distraction tactic may be helpful for them but is terrifying for Laura, feeling so alone and small that she’s afraid to even leave her bathroom or make a noise for fear of upsetting the balance – or metaphorically attracting the tiger. Whether the tiger is real or not doesn’t matter, the reality of Danny’s death is real and cannot be avoided, no matter how many tigers her parents buy or how long Laura stays locked up in her bathroom. Sooner or later, all parties will have to confront what they’re running from head on. There is a constant sense of calm before the storm in this piece which left me hungry to see the rest of the story.

Of course, as with any extract of a larger piece, there are moments which may benefit from a little context, such as the unexplained laughter which pierces through Laura’s monologue towards the end. However, I am confident that this is there for a reason and eagerly look forward to finding out should ​I Am Tiger​ be staged in full in the future.

Tiger Is Out ​is streaming on the National Theatre Scotland website.