Chris Hurley takes her two daughters and grandchildren to see the musical version of this enduringly popular children’s picture book
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take the family to the London production of The Tiger Who Came to Tea. It’s a celebration of over 50 years of Britain’s best-loved picture book, looking exactly as it did then.
It’s particularly enthralling for generations of women around my age who were fans of the author Judith Kerr back in the 1960s. They passed this on to their own children and grandchildren, who were still reading it when Judith died in her nineties.
Having dealt with lockdown for so long, I am welcoming the opportunity to enjoy theatre trips with my grandchildren now that their schools have broken up for summer.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea picture book was always a firm favourite with my own children and, although I knew that all my girls have moved on, they would still enjoy seeing Judith Kerr’s classic book, so all five of us had a girl’s day out.
A big part of the show’s charm is the set and costumes being 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 has been expanded 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.
Interesting to see though that my grandchildren have no experience or understanding of ‘a stay-at-home Mummy’ who devotes her day to 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.
Maia, my granddaughter aged ten, wasn’t taken in by the Tiger as much as her younger sister. She was intrigued though by the technicalities of the Tiger producing visual and magical surprises – particularly how the Tiger could swiftly clear plates of food but retain its impressive designs. Or how could the Tiger empty 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 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. They are constantly involved, such as being asked to join in with songs. There’s a ‘behind you’ moment when the Tiger arrives that 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 that has the kids dancing in the aisles with their Mums and Dads.
And we all giggled at the slapstick – the sort of stuff that only kids can laugh at – like Dad putting his shoe in the toaster.
My two daughters who are now in their forties took a different view to us and left the theatre full of questions. Elevenses, well-dressed postmen and loads of cake in afternoon tea, were in my memory but not theirs. And they simply couldn’t get to grips with Mummy looking after Sophie all day while Dad got himself off to work.
It was a refreshing change to see my grandchildren distracted from iPads and WhatsApp for an hour and 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 my Mummy actually did homebaked 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.
Haymarket Theatre Royal
18 Suffolk St
11 July – 4 September 2022
For performance times and to book tickets visit
The Tiger who came to Tea website