Toddlers might not quite have the hang of shouting “he’s behind you!” at such a young age, but screaming in delight as a tiger manages to sneak his way into a kitchen seems to be right up their alley.
Based on the classic children’s book by Judith Kerr, The Tiger Who Came to Tea allowed the children in the audience to interact with and experience this story in a delightful new way. Right from the beginning, happy music was playing as the audience took their seats, a bright kitchen decorated in primary colours was on stage, and the cast themselves entered through the aisles, greeting and smiling at every child they saw, and from that moment they had their target audience hooked. All the children were enraptured by what they were seeing, and repeated songs and jokes let them be a part of the show as the cast members gently encouraged them to sing along or say the punchline. Although an attempt to get a room full of four year olds to sing in the round might have been a tad too ambitious.The tiger especially stole the the show though.
Benjamin Wells- who portrayed ‘Tiger’ along with Daddy, Milkman, and Postman -must be commended for putting so much personality and energy into the character while wearing such an encompassing fur suit and a mask that, while beautifully painted, showed no range of expressions at all. However, with just a couple of struts across the stage, Wells would have the kids in fits of laughter. His gulping down of the food proved the be a big hit as well. Chumping and slurping (with one burp) seemed like some of the funniest jokes ever to the young children in the audience, and the fact that the food would actually be gone when the tiger was done eating- thanks to some trick plates and deft stage hands, or maybe just a hungry tiger -was met with amazement.
Wells isn’t the only one to thank for the show’s engaging nature and delightful atmosphere though. Abbey Norman and Jenanne Redman as Sophie and Mummy respectively, managed to succeed in the incredibly impressive act of keeping a room full of toddlers focused on them and the story through such infectious energy and smiles that even the grown-ups couldn’t help but grin. It’s obvious they were having fun up there, even through songs about the time changing and wondering who’s at the door, and the audience could tell.
With a magical set, catchy songs, and – most importantly – a cast that’s dedicated to making the show fun and accessible for everyone there, The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a lovingly crafted and captivating children’s show. The only issue I had was whether it was more entertaining to watch the show or to watch the amazed faces of the kids around me as their favourite stor -book characters were brought to life. Some tigers may change their stripes, but here’s hoping this production never does.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea is playing at the Lyric Theatre until 10 January. For more information and tickets, see the Nimax Theatre’s website. Photo by Jane Hobson.