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The Tiger Who Came to Tea review at the Lyric Theatre, London – ‘handsome beast of a show’

Jenanne Redman, Benjamin Wells and Abbey Norman in The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Photo: Jane Hobson The Tiger Who Came to Tea rivals The Mousetrap for longevity. Photo: Jane Hobson

It seems only right that the task of adapting one of the most successful picture books ever published should fall to the ‘national children’s playwright’ David Wood. His hit musical show, for children aged from three, has toured worldwide since 2008.

The main allure of Susie Caulcutt’s set is its resemblance to a spread from Judith Kerr’s legendary book: the neatly arranged kitchen, in which a mother and daughter, modelling the clothes Kerr sketched back in 1968, wave off Daddy, amid many a breakfast pratfall, to work. From this point all the action is a countdown to Tiger time. Doorbell ringing and clock ticking singalongs ramp up the anticipation, so that when at last a giant, orange stripy paw curls around the door jamb and a ‘he’s behind you’ routine precedes the grand entrance, the excitement is palpable.

The diminutive Abbey Norman as Sophie looks even more childlike alongside the attractively ruffled tiger costume inhabited by Benjamin Wells, and the ravenous dispatch of laden teatime plates of sandwiches and cakes, so central to the story, is cleverly staged. The extra songs and ‘tigerobics’ to encourage audience participation with varying degrees of success, however, feel like so much panto padding by the time we get to the cafe finale.

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Judith Kerr’s pictures so faithfully reproduced on stage make this singalong show a handsome beast