A Perth Theatre production commissioned by Imaginate as part of the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival.
***** (5 stars)
Stunning, amazing, outstanding, brilliant, wonderful, memorable, gripping, breathtaking…words fail me when I try to describe this work: superlatives aren’t enough, and I wish I had a sixth star to award.
Laura is alone in her attic [reached only by a ladder], staring at the box her parents have given her.
The box moves.
Inside the box there is a tiger.
A real tiger. Okay, an as yet small tiger, but really truly a tiger, stripes, teeth, tail and all.
Why have her parents bought her a tiger? Isn’t it illegal to keep one as a pet?
Little-know facts about tigers – alone among the big cats, they love water, they love swimming, but they can’t stand rain. And there are now more tigers kept as pets than live in the wild.
Laura is at a family counselling session – alone. Again. The counsellor shows her first-ever sign of interest or animation when told about the tiger: normally she simply displays the appropriate professional reactions to anything Laura says. Mum and Dad aren’t here – and they don’t speak to me: Dad’s become a DIY robot, and Mum just cries.
Danny always wanted a pet, but he’s allergic. If he were here, the tiger would be someone else’s problem, not mine. But he’s not here. And that’s the whole point of it: he’s not here, and no-one ever says his name or talks about him. One day he was here, and the next gone. No note, no explanation. Why?
I am Tiger is an exploration of what it feels like to try to keep on living, try to make sense of life after a family member has committed suicide. Chloe-Ann Tylor gives a searingly intense performance as Laura, pacing and leaping around the set like the tiger she is trying to live with but which grows and grows until it spirals out of control. It’s not all gloom and doom – there are brilliant flashes of wit and humour, and a totally brilliant parrot joke to close the show and bring us back to the here and now.
Oliver Emanuel has produced a deeply moving piece of work, inspired by the fact that suicide is the prime killer of men under forty. He also tells us a lot about tigers, and clearly shows how keeping a tiger as a pet is costly in more ways than one might imagine. Director Lu Kemp, designer Jamie Vartan, lighting designer Simon Wilkinson and composer/ sound designer Danny Krass have collaborated to create a stunning production which surely has to have more than the five performances scheduled in this festival. The final performance is on Wednesday, so get a ticket now!
This year’s festival, the first to put on live performances for a live audience in three years, celebrates the sheer joy of people coming together again while investigating the many challenges for children [and adults too!] of the lockdown years – isolation, lack of touch and human connection, mental health, peer pressure, and how to make sense of confusing and conflicted situations. Certainly last night’s audience were full of joy at coming together – for some of them the first time in three years that they’d been in such a gathering, or been to a live performance – and were loud and generous with their applause for I am Tiger.
There are twelve different shows in this year’s festival, six of them Scottish, with a target audience of newborns – sixteen-year-olds, and with an eclectic mix of genres and performance styles. Don’t miss out on the fun!
I am Tiger, runs until 11th May, for Tickets and more information go to: www.imaginate.org.uk