This stream of M6 Theatre Company’s hit show for young theatre lovers is the tale of an ordinary Yorkshire family who do something extraordinary.
What makes M6 great is they have genuine confidence that their work aimed at the 4 plus market can have some substance, so writer Mike Kenny plays fast and loose with structure, and it sometimes feels almost meta, which will keep the grown-ups engaged too.
Inspired by a real story, a Yorkshire window cleaner gives it all up to run away to join the circus in South Africa where he and his sensible wife Ma plus gung-ho daughter Titch perform as acrobats. Along the way they acquire a baby Sumatran tiger Ella, who they raise as their pet, and when they give up their life in the circus spotlight they take this fully grown killing machine home to live in their small village.
Kenny has been writing for young audiences for years, so knows they are much more sophisticated than you might think, but at an hour the show is just long to keep their attention. Along the way he subtly drops in the positive messages like sticking together, following your dreams and daring to be different as Ma notes the circus is a safe home for ‘people of all sorts’, including a bearded lady and a rubber man.
Gilly Baskeyfield’s direction is suitably broad allowing the performers plenty of latitude to sing, dance and cavort round the space. Nicola Jayne Ingram, now a wonderful stalwart of the old school Lawrence Batley Theatre panto, is a no-nonsense matriarch anchoring the big dreams of Owen Gaynor’s optimistic and loving Pa. Sophia Hatfield’s Titch is a tomboyish bundle of energy, who a real-life audience would be cheering on as she fights to keep her soft as you like tiger safe, even when council officials come round to take Ella away.
The cast belt out James Atherton’s upbeat songs and make the most of Joss Matzen’s simple, but versatile, set based around the railway carriage the family lived in on the other side of the world. They also turn their hand to puppetry forcing the audience to really use their imagination as they conjure up Ella as a baby and then a fierce adult, albeit a slightly mechanical version.
While it’s all too easy to patronise younger theatre goers, this complex but always warm-hearted piece is perfect for any desperate parents locked down with bored young children who need something entertaining and thought provoking to divert them for an hour or so.
To stream A Tiger's Tale go to https://m6theatre.co.uk/
Reviewer: Paul Clarke
Reviewed: 10th May 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★