The Tiger who came to Tea is the Cat’s Whiskers

Chris Hurley and her husband take their two grand children to see the musical adaptation of this enduringly popular children’s picture book

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This production has returned to the Piccadilly Theatre in the West End to celebrate 50 years since the publication of the picture book which has enthralled generations of children. It also marks the 95th birthday on 4 June of author Judith Kerr.

Now that the schools are breaking up for summer, it gives us the opportunity to spend quality time with our grand children. The question is what to do to keep them entertained, so I was thrilled to see that the musical adaptation of The Tiger who came to Tea is in the West End this summer.

The picture book was always a firm favourite with my own children and before we went to the show I set the scene by introducing my grandchildren, seven year old Maia and Millie who is 3, to Judith Kerr’s classic book. It was just the right level for Maia to read to her little sister and both were fascinated by the beautiful illustrations.

I am glad they had seen the book as a big part of the show’s charm is that the set and costumes are a faithful reproduction of the book’s lovely illustrations. Not only is the kitchen identical, with all its quaint floral china, but Mummy and Sophie are wearing exactly the same clothes as their fictional characters, even down to Mummy’s ribbed green tights.

The actual story expands quite a lot on the original with us watching a day in the life of this cute 1960s family rather than starting with the all important tea. I thought the children might be a bit confused by the journey back in time. What would the make of a stay at home Mummy who spends her day creating family meals, including an afternoon tea that would not be out of place at the Ritz? But they seemed to take it all in their stride – even when Mummy helps Daddy on with his coat before he goes off to work.

Also the Tiger on stage doesn’t talk but relies on mime to convey that he is hungry and many of his actions are interpreted by the children. Expanding and stretching the plot, the show is something of a mini-pantomime. The children are constantly involved, being asked to join in with songs, there’s a ‘behind you’ moment when the tiger arrives which has the young audience roaring with laughter. And the finale is a sing along which the audience joined in with gusto. There’s even some Tiger Aerobics which sees the kids dancing in the aisles with their Mums and Dads.

The fact that the children sat spellbound by all this interactive fun for an hour said it all. I thought it might have been a little on the young side for Maia but she was fascinated by the magical illusions when the tiger swiftly downed a whole plate of cakes or emptied a fridge full of goodies in one gulp – and she’s still wondering how Mummy’s shopping basket went from empty to full in a few seconds.

The children also giggled at the slapstick – the sort of stuff that only kids can laugh at – like Dad putting his shoe in the toaster.

It was a refreshing change to see these two little girls, who spend so much of their time watching animated cartoons on their iPads or American Kids’ TV, captivated by such a simple but endearing story. And it was a magical hour for me too, stepping back in time to a snapshot of my childhood, when Mum actually did bake cakes and going to the local cafe for sausage and chips was a real treat.

Go see it, I bet you will be singing the song about The Tiger who came to Tea all the way home.

Piccadilly Theatre
16 Denman Street
London W1D 7DY

For performance times and to book tickets visit

The Tiger who came to Tea website