This 55-minute show at the Vaudeville Theatre tells the story of Sophie and her mum visited by the big cat with a very big appetite, just as they are about to have their tea.
The play is written first and foremost for children. They are included in the action right from the start when the three actors mingle amongst them; throughout the play they are encouraged to join in the songs. This can of course get a little tedious for adults, but it definitely kept the younger ones amused. There are some attempts at education with counting featuring prominently, but it is the physical comedy, which gets the children laughing.
Movement director Emma Clayton deserves praise; there are some great slapstick sequences which had the young audience in fits of giggles; and there were some sleights of hand which even had a few of the adults wondering how they did it.
Set and costume designer, Susie Caulcutt did not stray far from Judith Kerr’s illustrations; all the cast members were dressed exactly as in the book. And the cardboard kitchen was almost exactly the same.
Abbey Norman manages to play the little girl Sophie very convincingly, which is always difficult when adult actors play children. Jenanne Redman plays Sophie’s mother with enthusiastic energy but it is Alan Atkins as Sophie’s father, the milkman, postman and the tiger who gets the most laughs. As daddy his great comic timing and flaying limbs turned breakfast time into a Chaplinesque routine as he manages to put the tea cosy on his head and almost put his shoes in the toaster. And his polite tiger, helped by Clayton’s movement direction, was delightful.
Judging by the shouts and laughter of the mostly pre-school audience they were entertained for the full duration and hopefully it will lead their parents to dig out the original to read to them.