Thursday, May 23

The Tiger Who Came to Tea – Liverpool Playhouse

The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Judith Kerr’s classic tale of, well, a tiger who came tea, has been a bedtime classic for over 50 years. It was adapted by David Wood into a stage show, which is celebrating 12 years and several Olivier Award nominations. That said, (and I might be in the minority here), I just didn’t gel with this performance.

I took my two sons, 5 and 2, to see this show, and I think we were a real spectrum of reviews between us. At one end, my 2-year-old, who joined in with such enthusiasm I’m tempted to ask for a cut of the profit. Although he seemed to enjoy the show, I have seen him more rapt in other shows (including Kerr’s Mog, the Forgetful Cat just last year) so it certainly wasn’t his favourite.

My eldest son sat in the middle of the road. Very much a “meh” review – he said he liked it, and there were some moments he really seemed to enjoy, but I didn’t see the awe in his eyes that so many other shows have created, and a few bits seemed to lose his attention when they began to drag.

At the other end is me. I realise that at 32, I’m not the target audience, but as a regular children’s theatre goer I’ve been lucky enough to see some shows that have had me as delighted as the younger members of the audience (and some even more so). Unfortunately, this was not the case here. I’ll start with the positives; the set is beautiful – true to the illustrations and the way that the food was magically eaten and replenished later on, left me very impressed.

I will say that my cringe tolerance is higher than most. I have performed in some pretty divisive theatre & love a bit of cheese. However, there were some real moments of overacting in TTWCTT that left me feeling a bit icky. Of course, in children’s theatre, things do have to be bigger, and bolder, but this went beyond that, almost into the realms of patronising. At times, the exaggerated movements felt like a caricature, or a parody of a GCSE drama piece.

Despite being a story about a literal tiger showing up, unannounced, the content from the source material is somewhat lacking, (and so quite why it is one of my son’s favourite books in a world that contains Julia Donaldson I do not know) How they manage to stretch it into almost an hour is almost admirable, however after singing the same song in several different crowd-participation formations, they manage it. But between this, and some of the other “it’s behind you” moments, a classic story became a little closer to a pantomime and it just didn’t sit right.

There were some really great moments of audience participation, however, which worked well with the young audience. Especially when the tiger did a workout with the radio, which allowed the children to do a stretch and roar, just as they may have been getting a little restless, allowing them to focus for a little longer.

Speaking of the Tiger, I have mixed feelings (of course). Visually, the Tiger costume was spot on and the first entrance (although drawn out a little more than seemed necessary) had the children very excited. The Tiger’s movements seemed a bit bizarre and there was one moment that a lady nearby referred to as “dry humping the sink” – and it really couldn’t be seen as anything else. The Tiger also doesn’t speak in the show, which felt a little off, as he has a few lines in the book.  

The actors themselves are clearly very talented, I believe we had Tia Bunce as Sophie, Ellie Shove as Mummy and Joseph Saunders as Daddy, the Milkman and the Postman (the Milkman was a lot of fun and Saunders is clearly very talented in physical comedy) and they were all very watchable.

There’s just something about the show that just didn’t flow for me, although I’m aware I’m the least relevant critic in my party.

Reviewer: Codie Wright

Reviewed: 13th February 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.