Kes Reimagined at The Space Online
Based on the novel A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines, Kes Reimagined was conceived for Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in 2014 by the award-winning choreographer Jonathan Watkins. This interpretation of a classic story, which is set in a Yorkshire mining community, retells the adventures of Billy Casper (Chester Hayes), a young working-class boy whose familial struggles and discontentment with a regimented school system make him a sad and solitary figure. However, it is his loneliness that leads him to the vast expanse of the Yorkshire countryside, where he develops a bond with a kestrel that he trains in secret.
Combining dance, music, movement, projections and puppetry, Kes Reimagined contrasts the delicate movements of the dancers with the stomping, overbearing brutality of a restrictive and aggressive system, where the freedom of the bird allows for the conceptual escape of a deeply isolated young boy. The bird soars overhead while Hayes imitates the flight with exaggerated gestures and light feet gliding across the stage. This free-flowing movement conflicts with the heaviness of the confines of the school, which has caused his physical withdrawal as he curls up in a ball or stands, wide-mouthed and absent-minded, lost in his great imagination.
Billy’s confidence grows as his friendship with the bird develops, so that he is able to stand up to the provocations of bullies at school, as well as his abusive father and negligent mother at home. Hayes is a passionate and very likeable Billy whose journey towards empowerment and emancipation makes for a spectacular visual experience. It is thought-provoking and highly enjoyable.
With moving set design by Ben Stones and projections by Daniel Denton, Kes Reimagined is adventurous, hopeful, sentimental and heartwarming. This production coincides with the 50th anniversary of Ken Loach’s film Kes, which was also adapted from Hines’s book. Kes Reimagined was adapted for screen by International Emmy Award-winning director Ross MacGibbon, and premiered at Leeds International Film Festival.
Photo: Marv Martin