Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Burglar Bill review at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford – ‘cosy children’s theatre’

Chris Yarnell and Leah Kirby in Burglar Bill at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. Photo: Fergus Ford

You know you’re winning with an early years show when the young children in the audience call out in cheerful, uninvited vociferous recognition of the characters on stage. Based on the 1977 picture book by from Janet and Allan Ahlberg which has achieved iconic status over at least two generations, Burglar Bill stars the nimble, natural Chris Yarnell as Bill, in his inevitable stripy t shirt. He sleeps during the day and burgles at night; in between he does little turns based on some of his loot. One hat leads to a gondolier moment and another to a bit of vaudeville.

Yarnell is an engaging, very physical actor and his sparky work is enhanced by Julian Butler’s jolly music. His foil is Leak Kirby (a pleasing dancer) as Burglar Betty, who begins as the narrator of the story and then becomes a character in it as the plot thickens. Bill finds a baby, and because he’s a good guy at heart, he looks after it – 1970s style, with terrycloth nappies. No prizes for guessing who the baby’s mother turns out to be and what happens at the end.

There’s also a stripy cat – an effective puppet, deftly operated by both actors – but the puppet baby is unnecessarily grotesque. Overall this is a decent 50 minutes of theatre for a young audience that (just about) stops short of glamorising theft.



We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Cosy, enaging adaptation of a children’s classic