Approach with caution. This two-person play has plenty to recommend it to children of about seven and over with an appropriately dark sense of humour. It’s witty, scary and daft, with a great premise that’s revealed in layers through some clever plotting and dialogue by writer Stewart Pringle. It proved a little too much for the younger children in the audience on the day I was in, whose reaction hovered somewhere between bemusement and fear. But lovers of, say, the blood and guts of the Horrible Histories series should be delighted.
“Everything’s fine and very safe!” Sue (Harriet Kemsley) assures us in a high-pitched, panicked and girlish manner that she maintains throughout an excellent comic performance. A former London Zoo keeper, she’s now one of the two surviving members of the London Zoo Players, a company formed two months ago at the insistence of an escaped tiger.
Aloysius Tiger himself is seen in glimpses from behind the curtain—a twitching tail here, a curled claw there—and his voice has the mannered menace of Disney’s Shere Khan. “You look tasty!” he bellows repeatedly, as Sue gives the details of her former colleagues’ steady annihilation.
More poetic extracts revealing Aloysius’s perspective on his capture and captivity make it clear that he’s no pure villain. But the show becomes both funnier and scarier as he and Sue’s full intentions are revealed.
With a crowd of, say, 8-12 year-olds hungry for laughs and scares, this would work brilliantly. With the more mixed audiences that are inevitable at the Fringe, it comes off a bit half-cocked. But that’s no reflection on the quality of this show, which as a children’s horror-comedy really earns its stripes.