The Tiger Who Came To Tea (Theatre Royal Haymarket)

Jocelyn Zackon (Sophie), David Scotland (Tiger)
Jocelyn Zackon (Sophie), David Scotland (Tiger)

The Tiger Who Came To Tea has now become a London holiday tradition, turning up in a variety of theatres to delight the younger audience member. Based on the late Judith Kerr’s 1968 book, it is adapted and directed for the stage by David Wood.

Utilising slapstick, songs, and actions the audience can join in with, The Tiger Who Came To Tea definitely held the attention of most of the pre-schoolers present on the Sunday afternoon matinee. For older viewers, it brought back memories of the talented writers and performers of the likes of Play School and Rainbow in the 1970s.

Split into a number of short segments, the show first introduces us to the family: Daddy, whose muddled attempts to get ready for work are amusing; Mummy, who stays at home and provides all the meals; and young Sophie.

Jocelyn Zackon (Sophie), Lizzie Dewar (Mummy in UK tour), David Scotland (Tiger)
Jocelyn Zackon (Sophie), Lizzie Dewar (Mummy in UK tour), David Scotland (Tiger)

Sophie and Mummy stop for elevenses and lunch, visited by a rather incongruous milkman (are there still such things?) and a clumsy postman, who delivers a gift of a toy kitten. Then, at teatime, “a ring at the door” introduces a most curious visitor – The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

The pace and imagination of the Tiger scenes captivate, with clever illusions and a real sense of the regal feline personality. There’s even a moment which hints at The Lion King and its “circle of life” which made me smile.

Set design is deceptively simple, with Susie Caulcutt hiding more than a few surprises. Jocelyn Zackon is convincing and cute as little Sophie, with boundless energy and wide-eyed amazement. Stephanie Summers is a lot of fun as Mummy, with that compassionate teacher type of engagement.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea
The Tiger Who Came To Tea

As Tiger (and Daddy/Milkman/Postman) David Scotland has a comedic gift for chaos and pathos that gives the show a touch of the uncertain youngsters appreciate so much. He’s particularly fun leading the Tigerrobics and the song in the cafe.

Kerr’s book may now creak a bit with its view of middle-class life and housewife Mums, but it retains a sense of being a children’s classic. The stage production has now run for eleven years and shows little sign of slowing down.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea continues in daytime performances at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 19 January. It runs for 55 minutes – please check the website for full details of performance times.

Photo credits Robert Day.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

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