Review - The Tiger Who Came To Tea at Royal & Derngate, Northampton

The Tiger Who Came to Tea
The Tiger Who Came to Tea

The childhood tales that last for decades are always those with more than a hint of magic and mystery. Penned in 1968, Judith Kerr's The Tiger Who Came To Tea is one such story.

Admittedly, having a giant, furry tiger ring the doorbell and ask to share sandwiches and buns with little Sophie and her mum is not a realistic storyline, but it is one that has been told and retold to enthralled munchkins for a long time.

And quite a few of these enthralled munchkins, including my own daughter Eloise, packed into Northampton's Royal and Derngate on Saturday afternoon to enjoy David Wood's musical stage adaptation.

This was Eloise's first proper 'sit down' theatre experience and, as all parents of young children will know, it can be a nerve-racking time taking fidgety barrels of energy somewhere and expecting them to settle for prolonged periods.

Fortunately, the play did not disappoint and was perfectly geared towards toddlers and primary age children. At about an hour long, it is the perfect length, and the narrative and songs are simple, entertaining and straightforward so as not to lose the attention of little minds.

The early part of the story was elaborated a little, with humorous visits to Sophie's home paid by the milkman (a hard selling, door to door type) and the postman (who brings with him a little toy cat from Sophie's uncle). There is also a funny passage with Sophie's Dad trying to get out to work in the morning in a rush, which involves plenty of chaotic tea drinking, toast catching and tea cosy wearing.

The milkman, Dad, postman and tiger are all played by one very hardworking actor, Harry Howle, who proves to be a master of physical humour in some energetic scenes involving the tigergulping down all the water in the tap and all the food in the fridge and cupboard.

He is joined on stage by the talented Abbey Norman as little Sophie and Ashley Tucker as Mummy. Abbey is an adult actress who takes on the role of a child but it doesn't take long to accept her in the part.

The book is much loved in our house so expectations were high but the play was a joy to watch. The beautiful, bright orange tiger, which is faithful in design to the original illustrations, did scare Eloise a little at first but a lot of work goes into ensuring the audience members quickly understand he is friendly and not something to fear.

Eloise came away asking me if we could please 'go again tomorrow' and wanted to immediately go home so she could read the book version. As a review from a three-year-old, this is probably the best one.

I would recommend the show to any parents who want to inspire a love of the theatre in their little ones, as well as a fondness for a beautiful children's book about a peckish tiger.

The show has now finished at Northampton but will returning to the county at Castle Theatre in Wellingborough on Saturday October 21. Visit www.castletheatre.co.uk to book.