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Kes - A Whirlwind of Emotions

Kes presented by the Saints.

Kes by Lawrence Till, directed by Jason Riley, presented  by the Saints Drama Group, Allesley Village Hall, Coventry, running from 14 - 18 May 2024, in association with Little Dark One Productions.

Review by Ann Evans


The Saints production of Kes which opened last night at their theatre in Allesley Village Hall was an absolute whirlwind of emotions. And the team led by first time director Jason Riley should be feeling extremely proud of their production which they put together in just eight weeks.

Billy and his mum (Daniel O'Hara and Michelle Williams). Photo courtesy of The Saints.


Many will know the classic story of Kes from the 1969 Ken Loach film that was based on the 1968 novel A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines. This stage version written by Lawrence Till brought to life the story of Billy Casper, (played brilliantly by 18-year-old Daniel O’Hara) a young boy living a miserable life in a poverty-stricken dysfunctional family with a bullying older brother, Jud (Jack Sargent), and a self-centred, neglectful mother (Michelle Williams).

(L-R) Jud (Jack Sargent), Billy (Daniel O'Hara). Photo courtesy of The Saints.


At school Billy is bullied as much by the teachers as the other kids – particularly headmistress Miss Gryce (Jemma Cooper), and Mr Sugden/Mr Beal (Gareth Davies). Only the English teacher, Mr Farthing (Gareth Twynham) has any compassion and interest in Billy.


Billy finds solace in the kestrel he keeps in his shed. He has painstakingly trained his bird to feed from his hand, fly free - and return to him. His love and time spent with Kes are the only bright moments in Billy’s harsh tormented life.

Harsh headmistress, Miss Gryce (Jemma Cooper). Photo courtesy of The Saints.


In the Saints’ production we learn this backstory through the brilliant script so well delivered by the cast; and we see Kes flying free through film footage on a screen. The clever set up of the village hall stage takes us seamlessly from Billy’s home into his school and the wild open fields where he and Kes spend any free moments Billy can snatch.

Billy with his teacher Mr Farthing (Gareth Twynham). Photo courtesy of The Saints.


Watching the Saint’s production I expected an entertaining evening - they always put on excellent entertainment. I didn’t expect to be held spellbound by the performances of this cast. I didn’t expect to feel so angered and upset by the unfair treatment metered out to Billy by his teachers, his brutish brother and uncaring mother. And I could never have expected such brilliant high drama and heartache as the story rose to its final crescendo.  

A rare quiet moment in school. Photo courtesy of The Saints.


Fantastic acting by all the cast, and well done those younger actors playing the school children. But special mention to Daniel O’Hara (Billy Casper) Jack Sargent (Jud Casper) and Michelle Williams (Mrs Casper). And while I don’t want to give away any spoilers, the drama that unfolds between Billy, his brother and his mum towards the end is jaw-droppingly stunning – and utterly heartbreaking.


Award-winning stuff that left many of the audience in tears – as well as those key actors who played out these moments with total commitment and passion.


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1 Comment

May 15

Absolutely brilliant performance by all the cast, especially Billy, it was an amazing, funny, emotional performance! Very moving which drew you in. Really enjoyed the performance! Well done everyone, definitely recommend watching.

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