The Tiger Who Came to Tea
King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 9–Sat 11 Oct
This article is from 2008.
Uninvited dinner guests can be a pain, especially when they arrive armed with a big appetite. But it’s unlikely any of the readers of The Tiger Who Came to Tea haven’t fantasised about just such an occurrence taking place in their own home. Judith Kerr’s tale of the big cat who turns up unannounced, and eats Sophie and her mum out of house and home, was first published in 1968. Forty years later it’s still a popular bedtime choice with children and their nostalgic parents.
Which is why, when children’s theatre stalwart David Wood came to adapting the story for the stage, he knew he had to handle it with kid gloves. ‘I see my job as being faithful to the original,’ he says. ‘Because I know it’s many children’s favourite book and parents remember it fondly, so they want to see the book they know. But at the same time I’m very aware that they’re coming to the theatre, and it’s no use just sticking it up there word for word – you have to find a theatricality within it.’
As well as directing and writing, Wood is also a member of the Magic Circle, allowing him to pepper the show with gasp-inducing illusions such as the tiger’s plate miraculously emptying. He’s also filled the show with songs and audience participation to keep little ones hooked to the last. ‘It’s a very strange and surreal story and I’ve tried to analyse why it’s so popular,’ says Wood. ‘And basically it’s got all the ingredients that children like – a child protagonist, animals and food. So if you then add in a bit of music and colour on stage, it really works.’