Judith Kerr: Page To Stage Magic: We were saddened to hear the news that the wonderful children’s author, Judith Kerr, had passed away. At the of 95, the illustrator and author of over 30 books, marked the end of an era.
The Tiger Who Came To Tea is definitely one of our most stage popular shows. We’ve brought it to the UAE on four occasions. And every time we bring it, it plays to a full house and standing ovations. In our experience, this is down to the fact that the production company sticks so closely to the wonderful book by Judith Kerr.
Most of us remember from our own childhoods. The sets, the phrases and the costumes worn by the cast, mimic perfectly, Kerr’s own illustrations of this magical story which sold over one million copies.
The Tiger Who Came To Tea is one of those tales that once told, everyone remembers. Kerr had an uncanny knack of creating stories that children could both relate to and always remember, even when the fantastical was involved.
Of course, The Tiger Who Came To Tea wasn’t the only bestseller Kerr wrote. Who can forget the wonderfully humorous tales of Mog – the family cat and inspired by Kerr’s very own pet.
A wartime child
Born in 1923, Judith Kerr was a refugee from Germany, who arrived in the UK in 1936. In her early years, she worked as a nurse for the Red Cross, and then later as a script reader for the BBC. A talented illustrator, it was when Kerr had her children, Tacy and Matthew, that she began to write her beloved children’s books. Her most famous tale of all, was The Tiger Who Came To Tea. This was written when she was loo kingafter her daughter at home. She wished that something extraordinary would happen – and her most famous book was born.
But it was only in her 40’s that her publishing dreams came true. Over the next 50 years, her books became a household staple for children in the UK and internationally.
Mog was a favourite character – and the series of books was hugely successful for decades. The domestic experienced many bizarre adventures but was always so very feline in her behaviour that she became universally loved and recognised.
Bestseller Mog books
Kerr killed Mog off on 2004 in a poignant story which saw the loveable pet cat go for her forever sleep. The book was another bestseller, but was also bittersweet, and parents and children alike said goodbye to their favourite feline character.
Later, in 2015, Mog was resurrected to star in a Christmas advert. The adverts was narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch and became one of the top Christmas campaigns of that year. The Mog effect was still alive and kicking.
But even though both Mog and Kerr are no longer with us, the stories are still very much alive. From our point of view, The Tiger Who Came To Tea is as relevant now as it ever was. Children and adults alike are still being charmed by the story. As long as our young audiences in the UAE want to see it, we will keep bringing it to the stage.
An unforgettable author
Kerr’s story translates so very well into a theatrical production. It has all the magic ingredients of the perfect stage show. A huge, magical beast. A little girl. Her kindly mother, and the father who takes them all for a wonderful meal at the end of the story. And yet, it is not scary, nobody gets eaten (only all the food in the house and all the water in the taps). There is no baddie in The Tiger Who Came To Tea. There is no conflict. And yet, as a tale, it has captured the imaginations of millions.
Judith Kerr re-wrote the traditional fairy tale. She wasn’t afraid to try something different. Her example should be an example to all young writers everywhere.