Review: Scalby School’s Kes at Stephen Joseph Theatre

Scalby School cast of Kes
Scalby School cast of Kes

Scalby School hasa reputation of taking to the Stephen Joseph Theatre stage and ‘owning it’ – and its production of Kes was no exception.

The story of Billy Casper, the teenager about to leave school who finds and trains a bird of prey, was raw, intense, gritty and yet lyrical.

Based on Barry Hines’ novel A Kestrel for a Knave – part of the ‘kitchen sink’ movement which included John Braine, Stan Barstow, David Storey and Alan Sillitoe – it is set in a northern mining community.

Billy’s life is beset by bullying and poverty – he is set for a life down the pit with little to look forward to except Saturday nights on the beer. His escape is his kestrel which he rears.

With minimal set and props, the youngsters brought this dour tale – shot through with wonderfully dry humour – vividly to life with some fine individual performances as well as ensemble acting, which, at times, resesembled the chorus in Greek tragedy.

Taran Fox and Hugh Stanway shared the main role of Billy and I saw Taran. He was perfect, his slight frame almost continually hunched against the cold and physical attack – from family or foe – which could be launched any second. His timing on the comic 
moments was perfect and his delivery priceless.

He had wonderful support from Lauren Philipson as his mum (role share with Sacha Butterworth) and Jack Brown as Billy’s brutal brother Jud.

Mention too must go to Jamie Coles as MacDowell, Reagan Rudlinton as Mr Gryce, Harry Blackstone as Mr Sugden, Jack Thornton as Gibbs, Charlie Hopper, Mr Farthing, Sam Palmer as Anderson, Keenan Coles-Metcalfe as Tibbut and Trinity Moreno as Mrs Crossley.

The kestrel – the star of the show – was ... conspicuous by its absence. Director Stacey Buric left it to the audience’s imagination – helped by some wonderful music which conjured up dawn, dusk and birds in flight. Under the directon of Tom Aston, there was a great band who played a score and sang hits from the 60s and 70s – including every teenager’s anthem The Who’s My Generation. The music came from Marcus Moore, Rebecca Abbey, Martin Briggs, Elen Derrett, Daniel Sephton, Felix Thompson, Toni Handley, Joe Lathan, Alex Kirby, Nadine Wiles, Niamh Senior and Catherine Wrigley.

The young people of Scalby School did a magnificent job in bringing this modern classic to the stage.