It’s a funny old book, The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Read it more than a few times and you have to wonder about mummy.
Poor weary daddy, when he comes home yet again to no supper, no food shopping, the beer ‘disappeared’ and the preposterous idea a tiger did it. You have to ask if Sophie isn’t the only mother’s little helper about the place.
Luckily the brilliant stage adaptation of Judith Kerr’s story, at the Lyceum in Sheffield for a sold-out run last week, takes a much less cynical view. It’s colourful, slapstick, full of surprises, cheery and riotously fun.
There’s simple, repetitious audience participation - shouts of hello! tick, tock! one! two! three! - to engage even babies as well as school-age fans, and the vintage-gorgeous set design is so true to Kerr’s 1968 illustrations it’s the book come magically to life.
There’s song, there’s dance, there’s vanishing food, and there’s ‘he’s behind you’ hilarity to get the kids pointing and squealing.
And there’s a tiger.
Playwright David Wood, who spirited the tale from page to stage, once said he was doing his job right if his young audiences didn’t keep wanting the loo. Well they didn’t. And they didn’t care about their snacks either.
They were glued to the goings-on, shouting out and joining in, immersed in a story that might be 50 years old this year but still has the power to spellbind little minds. Delightful.