Theatre Review: The Tiger Who Came To Tea, by Anna Morell


Catch this lovely children’s classic brought to life for the stage this summer

From the first bars of the ‘Hi! Hello!’ song, it’s clear this production of the much-loved children’s book, ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’, is going to be faithful, sunny, sung (at least in parts) and joyfully interactive. The cheery score is all xylophones and glockenspiels – gentle, nostalgic, and completely lovely.

This is theatre for grandparental treats, and mothers of the older generation who hanker for that Welsh dresser and choice mugs and jugs look. That’s a beautifully safe 1970s middle class kitchen, right there. Those are Hotter shoes on the very yummy Mummy. And Daddy – well, he’s been updated a little from his Angus Deayton-alike in the book and is, frankly, quite a bit fitter (and quite a lot sillier. He can’t put on a jacket without Mummy’s help in the opening sequence and tries to pop his shoes in the toaster. Heaven knows what he does around the office. Did they have Diet Coke Break-quality interns back then?)

There are some lovely rhythms lilting us through the light-touch physical comedy of Sophie and Mummy’s day – tick, tock, tick, tock, round goes the clock, as we all count down the hours, through some nice vignettes with the milkman and the postman before the final knock on the door – who can it be?

You know very well who it is. And they’ve done a grrrreat job of him too. A huge and imposing (in all senses) bright, gracious, languid, playful beast who tilts just the right side of utterly sinister – at least for the children. As adults, you may know that the whole story is quite possibly allegory for the author Judith Kerr’s childhood under the threat of Nazism. You never quite know who is going to pay you a visit, nor what they may or may not do.

So many delighted and frightened faces clutched in little hands, eyes unable to turn away from that bold and beautiful tiger. Thrilled, for all the reasons. And, unlike Judith, so sad to see such a scary, unanticipated guest finally go.

“That was amazing!” Said Sophie to her Mummy. And she was absolutely right.


‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ plays at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford until Sunday 7 June and then at The Gulbenkian, Canterbury, from Tuesday 18 until Sunday 23 August.


Photo: Alan Atkins as The Tiger, by Robert Workman