Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

‘You can’t train them, Kestrels, they’re the hardest bird to train…’

Adapted for the stage by Robert Alan Evans, ‘Kes’ is based on Barry Hines’ 1968 much loved and adored classic ‘ A Kestrel for a Knave.’ Set in a small mining town in South Yorkshire, Kes follows fifteen year-old Billy Casper, who is emotionally and physically mistreated by his mother, his school and society in general. A by-product of our unjust and discriminatory class system, Billy lives a pretty desolate life, until he finds meaning in rearing and training a kestral. Kes is a story of youth, social injustice, and humanity…

In his Director’s note, Banerjee explains, ‘…this isn’t Kes as we know it’ and he’s correct; this is a bold conceptual visceral piece of art, which most certainly maintains the essence of Hinde’s modern classic at it’s core, but with a raw modern twist. Banerjee has successfully assembled a talented team both on and off stage, who execute well to create this brave modern piece; Braithwaite’s beautifully rich and deeply moving sound composition is definitely a highlight and is really rather impressive and impactful throughout. This coupled with Field’s and Platt’s atmospheric set design and lighting design respectively, provide a wonderful back drop for this story to be reborn in a new imaginative theatrical way.

Although at times the piece can feel a little too abstract, making it hard to fully engage with, maintain focus and follow as the scenes and characters develop and interchange abruptly, the skilful actors continue to draw us back in time and time again for the duration of this one hour performance. All three performers work extremely hard throughout and their stage presence is quite remarkable. Each individual takes full ownership of and graces the space with finesse, allowing the story-telling of this powerful tale to unfold with style, poise and a whole lot of heart.

Whilst set in the 1960s, the themes of Kes most definitely still resonate in a 2022 post pandemic modern society. At the route, the same profound questions, of the same injustices, of the same failing social class system are still being explored, and therefore the story is still very much as relevant, fitting and powerful for today’s present-day audience as it was over 50 years ago.

A special mention has to go to Bolton Octagon. They’ve done a wonderful job with the opening of their brand new building;the welcome was warm, the space was inviting, it is everything regional theatre should be and boy how lucky are we to have this here in the North West, right on our doorsteps!

The Octagon Theatre and Theatre by the Lake’s Kes is a dark, powerful and bolshy adaptation of a much loved classic that certainly packs a heart felt punch.

Catch ‘Kes’ at the Octagon Theatre until Saturday 2nd April tickets available here.

Or at Theatre by the Lake from Wednesday 6th- Saturday 30th April tickets available here.

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