Roarsome family entertainment, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, comes to St George’s Hall where Leo Owen caught the show

SUSIE Caulcutt’s set faithfully pays homage to Judith Kerr’s much-loved picture book with a white kitchen at its heart. Here, wood panels pop out for rapid location changes and props disappear before the audience’s very eyes, promising fans the true magic of this 1968 hit. Costumes jump from the page to the stage, embodying Kerr’s characters.

David Wood’s adaptation cleverly uses the source material’s back story to bulk out what would normally be a quick read. In doing so, he manages to avoid the trap so many children’s shows fall into, sloppily extending running time with a series of mediocre musical numbers. Minor characters who barely feature in the original book are brought to life by Sophie (Tia Bunce) and Mummy (Ellie Shove) narrating and breaking the fourth wall to tell the story together, mirroring the audience experience. Joseph Saunders, plays Daddy, Milkman, Postman and the titular Tiger, a series of comedic caricatures.

Wood, with Emma Clayton co-directing, wisely favours a slapstick approach with a sleepy Daddy struggling into his jacket and absent-mindedly putting a tea cosy on his head. The Milkman is portrayed as a dodgy salesman, offering up a bizarre range of products from the lining of his coat, while The Postman attempts to depart via a cupboard door.

Accompanying music from Peter Pontzen leans towards the farcical too, in keeping with Wood’s style of physical theatre, relying on his cast to provide exaggerated sound effects. Carefully targeting his audience, Wood plays on the certainty the majority will have been read the story on repeat. Knowing this, he builds tension around the tiger’s arrival by drawing out the opening sequence through a series of unexpected doorbell rings. Having Sophie and Mummy count up to mealtimes swaying in sync with the ticks of the clock further heightens the suspense.

The decision to honour Kerr’s illustrations is a wise one as the arrival of the titular character doesn’t disappoint. Donning a plush tiger suit, Saunders is a courteous and affectionate visitor with some surprise moves that only make his character all the more endearing. Song and dance give the show a pantomime vibe, further delighting little ones who revel in the call and response and heartily participate in actioned singalongs.

Perfectly staged to satisfy multiple generations of Kerr fans, The Tiger Who Came to Tea really is “the purrfect treat for all the family”.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea showed at St George’s Hall March 27-28 March before continuing its UK tour: