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

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.

 

panto-2 [1]

Verdict
Cosy, enaging adaptation of a children’s classic

Production

Production
Burglar Bill
Venue
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
City
Guildford
Starts
November 19, 2016
Ends
November 19, touring until February 16, 2017
Adaptation
Tina Wiliams
Music
Julian Butler
Director
Tina Williams
Design
Catherine Chapman
Technical
Nick Ash (puppet maker). Roman Stefanski (puppet director)
Stage manager
Alexandra Bradford
Cast includes
Chris Yarnell, Leah Kirby
Producer
Pied Piper Theatre Company
Running time
50mins