Last year director Sarah Frankcom worked her magic on Little Voice by exploring hidden depths and enabling audiences to look beyond the film and previous stage productions. Lightning has certainly struck twice because this haunting adaptation of Barry Hines' A Kestrel For A Knave has the power to live on beyond a much loved book and classic British film.
Yorkshire lad Billy Casper has his life is mapped out for him. During his last year at school teachers continue to label him trouble, kids carry on picking on him, his brother Jud (William Beck) strives to be the man of the house and his mum does not give him the love that he longs for. What hope is there for him? A lifetime in the pits seems certain.
One morning Billy finds a kestrel. It opens up a whole new chapter of his life. Suddenly he has the potential that he has longed for. Even a teacher shows an interest in him. He becomes proud and much more confident. He tells people: "I trained her", proudly talking about his beloved bird, Kes.
Andrew Garfield gives a powerhouse performance as the gangly, neglected kid that people look right through. He provides the character with a face and voice beyond his dirty face and scraggy clothes. Beck is the angry young man who tries to assert his masculinity in the only way that he knows how - by lashing out at all around him. His is a frighteningly real performance. Jane Hazelgrove holds back every emotion as the lonely mother who lives for Saturday nights and the company of men. Roger Morlidge provides Billy with a sympathetic ear and a glimmer of hope as Mr Farthing his teacher. Their scenes together are incredibly touching.
Lawrence Till's adaptation retains the hard edge of the book but also manages to brings fresh ideas to the text. The final scene featuring Billy living out the perfect fantasy provide him with an escape route.
Peter Rice's evocative sound is both stirring and unsettling. We really do see Billy's bird, as the sound effects compliment the actors' sterling work. Frankcom clearly loves the original book. She stages this piece beautifully and as a result the audience on the night attended were moved beyond belief. Take flight with Kes - it will leave your spirits soaring long after the final curtain.
- Glenn Meads