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Kes review at Playhouse Liverpool

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Billy Casper’s a failure. Everybody picks on him, nobody really likes him and, in the past, he’s been in trouble with the police. His dad’s done a runner, has a brother who hates him and a mother who couldn’t care less.

Set in the mid to late sixties, Barry Hines’ novel about how Billy sets about training a fledgling kestrel is timeless so all of the attributes – or lack of them – that the writers, directors and actors have given to Billy could well have been given to many a council estate kid. It is in this sense of authenticity that the play triumphs.

There is a warmth that emanates from Stefan Butler’s Billy that is quite simply tangible. Everybody knows this boy, though nobody would care to admit it, and Butler’s portrayal of the misfit who so briefly triumphs over adversity is quite astonishingly good.

Opposite Billy’s likeability is Jud’s vile nastiness, carried off brilliantly here by Oliver Farnsworth. The fight scenes, the goading and the bullying all carry great credibility and that is on account, largely, of these two fine actors giving their all and not holding back.

Daniel Casey as Mr Farthing, who finally sees Billy not as a waster but as a boy with potential, takes the more experienced actor’s credits for the night. Despite his age possibly working against him initially, Casey steps up to the plate at all the right moments and delivers compassion and strictness in equal measure fabulously well.

With a minimal but effective set and lighting that utilises shadow to the full, this production of Kes will doubtlessly have your hearts soaring by its end.

Production Information

Playhouse, Liverpool, September 18-October 10, then touring until November 28

Adapted by Lawrence Till from the book A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines
Nikolai Foster
Liverpool Everyman Playhouse, The Touring Consortium
Cast includes
Stefan Butler, Daniel Casey, Mike Burnside, Katherine Dow Blyton, Oliver Farnworth, David Crellin, Oliver Watton, Dominic Gateley, Sue Vincent
Running time
2hrs 10mins

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