Review: Kes, Crucible Theatre

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Barnsley-born Jonathan Watkins has created a fantastic dance version of the much-loved story of schoolboy Billy Casper and the kestrel that is the only ray of hope in a tough 1960s pit village.

Barry Hines’ novel, A Kestrel for a Knave, was turned into an iconic film by Ken Loach and this version calls on both for plot and imagery.

Chester Hayes, who plays Billy, has acting skills to match his dancing. You get a real feel of the lad whose grey world is transformed by his sudden passion to train a kestrel to hunt with him.

Kes is created by a series of puppets, operated by Laura Careless and Barnaby Meredith, that show the bird both close up with Billy and soaring free. It’s beautifully done and very believable.

The choreography and Ben Stones’ set convey the idea that people are caged by their lives, especially Billy’s mum (Laura Caldow).

One scene shows a Saturday night out at the pub, with a crowd getting drunker and drunker but still staying in a tiny area.

Alex Baranoswski’s haunting score adds to the atmosphere.

There’s also plenty of humour derived from favourite scenes in the film, including the boy getting caned by mistake and the football match dominated by a teacher who thinks he’s Bobby Charlton.

Local youngsters playing Billy’s classmates did a great job.

The final scenes, where Kes is killed by Billy’s brother (Tom Jackson Greaves) in retaliation for an unplaced bet, are heart-rendingly compelling.