David Wood’s latest adaptation for children takes one of the best loved children’s books of all time, The Tiger Who Came To Tea, and faithfully replicates it on stage at the Vaudeville theatre with a whole host of magic, music and mayhem.
For those who need refreshing, Judith Kerr’s 1968 picture book tells the story of a surprisingly magical day in the life of Sophie and her mum. Sitting down to tea – in the good old days when teatime would have more suitably been named caketime – their daily routine is interrupted when a very tall, very fluffy tiger appears at the door.
Unfortunately this tiger is also very hungry, but luckily he doesn’t eat little girls, preferring instead cakes, sandwiches, the occasional beer and anything that might be lurking in the back of the larder.
After making his way through Sophie and her mum’s afternoon feast, the tiger moves on to the fridge and cupboards, even glugging down a tank load of water. But far from causing unwanted mischief, the hungry beast charms the pair with his polite ways and nimble feet.
In the programme notes Wood said his daughters’ love for the book inspired him to create the adaptation and his love for every page is obvious. Taking the book from page to stage, he has almost religiously reproduced the story with charming touches in every scene picked from the smallest details of the popular book; even Sophie’s geometric tights make an appearance. The set looks as if it has been popped up from the page, an identical replica of Kerr’s illustrations with each costume painstakingly matched.
Audience members coming to the story for the first time at the Vaudeville theatre – although judging from the amount of children hugging well thumbed copies of the book it doesn’t seem as if there will be many – will find much to hold their attention. There are magic tricks aplenty – I haven’t seen food disappear that quickly since the last office email for cake was sent out – songs and dances to be joined in with, and plenty of slapstick comedy thanks to a rather silly, forgetful dad.
The production has a nostalgic feel to it with an autumnal faded palette used to create the colourful and slightly dated world. The final scene which sees the excitement of an impromptu trip to a café after bedtime will leave even the most hardened parent touched.