Kes at Stockport Garrick

One of the biggest challenges of staging Kes is that the film version was able to use landscape to create such feeling of openness and escape.  Inevitably, the play tends to focus on lead character Billy’s life at home and in the school, where the drama can be developed.  Stockport Garrick’s production uses a bare set with minimal furniture and cold lighting to create that feeling of isolation.  Place is denoted by a circular disc with an external and internal image on either face; it works well.

Kes tells the story of Billy, bullied by his brother at home and by teachers at school.  He finds himself through training and caring for a young kestrel.  It’s about how teachers can change us for good and bad, and how we find our place in this world, in the end.

Using a mix of adult and youth actors, this production develops the themes of the play with confidence and manages to balance the bleakness and bullying with the humour, ultimately to create the strong positive message of the play.  Although the pared back set makes scene changes very quick, the emotional pace does drop off at times.  However the key scenes are delivered with sensitivity and balance, and there’s good movement around the stage; this is a production that keeps you engaged.

And of course, this is amateur theatre, but like many similar organisations in Greater Manchester you can’t always tell the difference.  Overall this is a well produced play, and an accomplished performance.

Stockport Garrick, until 17 December.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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