As writer Joe Eyre put it in recent conversation with Miro Magazine theatre editor Daniel Perks, his new play Tiger “has the right to be awful as it’s so new.” A couple of weeks ago – at its first night ever – I felt not only honoured to be watching a new show that has never been performed before, but actually moved to tears.
Alice (Stephanie Lane) and Oli (James Burton) are in a relationship, and looking for a flatmate to help pay the rent. Alice is on her own to interview potential flatmates when the first person arrives, makes her laugh with a Knock Knock joke, something she apparently hasn’t done recently, and she asks him straight away if he would like to live there with them. The only downside, or at least it is to Oli when he gets home later that day, is that the new flatmate is dressed in a tiger suit. All the time.
Alice is clearly suffering from grief, which has stopped her from working and even leaving the house, and which is putting her relationship in jeopardy. Tiger, too, (played by Joe Corrigall) has been through a family trauma and will not remove his head or his suit, nor indeed stop speaking in his New Jersey accent (like the one you might find in the Top Cat cartoon or advertising Kellogg’s cereals). Within a short time, they are clearly doing each other good, and it really doesn’t matter for which reason, whilst the relationship with Oli stretches to cracking point.
Tiger is cleverly and beautifully written about what it feels like to fall into the black hole of depression, when you cannot see the way out and you don’t know who can help and when it will ever end. It is about grief, and sadness, and guilt, and how to go on after somebody has died, and whether one’s emotions can ever be wrong, and how people can help each other through all of this even if they don’t know each other that well – or especially if they don’t know each other that well.
Stephanie Lane plays Al with perfect subtlety, her eyes always glistening on the point of tears, the way she wavers between anxiety, self-doubt and strength. Corrigall has the hardest role to play in many ways, particularly with the full furry suit right down to oversized paws and head gear, and it is sometimes difficult to catch every word he says, yet it does work. Our sympathies are not with Oli at first, but Burton plays him so that we warm to him finally, and the play ends on a message of love and hope and remembrance.
hattydaze rating: ***/*****