The Tiger Who Came To Tea, Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, UK.

I am probably sixty years older than the demographic at which this production is aimed, and so excuse me if I am a little out of touch with what makes children chortle, and at the same time I am a little over cynical about what producers are looking to gain.

When you arrive at the Cadogan Hall you are directed into an enormous room reminiscent of a Tiger Toys R’ Us. It is full of stuffed tiger toys (three different sizes), some tiger posters, and every other piece of tiger merchandising you can think of. Great for the kids, not so great for their parent’s pockets!

As the show stars, the doorbell rings just as Sophie and her mummy are sitting down to tea. Who could it possibly be? What they certainly don’t expect to see at the door is a big, stripy tiger!

The play lasts for 55 min and it all takes place on a single set which most of the time represents Sophie and her mummy and daddy’s kitchen. The exceptions are when the audience is asked to suspend disbelief and believe that the family are in an invisible car, and later in a café.

Ok, enough cynicism, I’m beginning to sound like The Grinch. Let’s start talking about the production its self and the good points. The cast comprises Sophie, played by the talented, diminutive Abbey Norman, her mummy played by Ashley Tucker, and her daddy (who also doubles as a milkman and a postman), played by Benjamin Wells and of course a nameless, mute tiger. I was slightly confused in that the web site claims that Benjamin Wells also plays the tiger, and yet they are both on the stage at the same time at one point. Just the magic of theatre I guess.

This is a musical play for children and is beautifully directed by David Wood who has previously directed many Roald Dahl adaptations, including The Witches and The BFG. The story is based on the highly successful children’s book by Judith Kerr. Previously this production had been on a very popular international tour, followed by a run at the Lyric Theatre. The production was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family.

The majority of the audience were young children who happily sang, clapped, counted out the time and danced (occasionally even when they were meant to). However, the undisputed star was the Tiger. Even to this cynical old reviewer, the tiger looked very cute and cuddly. Only very occasionally did the children seem to lose interest in the proceedings but they were soon revived with the help of a sing song, or an intervention by the striped hero.

Reviewed by Graham Archer
Photo: Jane Hobson

The Tiger Who Came To Tea plays at Cadogan Hall until the 4 September 2016