Yorkshire Times
Voice of the North
9:30 PM 8th October 2019

Kes Reimagined: Billy Casper Returns In New Film Adaptation

Award-winning choreographer Jonathan Watkins conceived and created his dance, music and puppetry adaptation of Barry Hines’ seminal novel A Kestrel for a Knave for Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in 2014. Now, it is re-imagined for the screen with International Emmy Award winner Director Ross MacGibbon bringing this modern classic to audiences in an entirely new way.

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Ken Loach’s film Kes, also adapted from Hines’ novel, Kes Reimagined and co-produced by The Space, and Kestrel Dance Film Production Ltd, premieres at Leeds International Film Festival (7 November), followed by screenings at Showroom Cinema, Sheffield (8 November), and Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax (9 November).

With its themes remaining relevant - family relationships, education, opportunities, weaknesses and hidden strengths – Kes is the story of a boy and a bird set in a Yorkshire mining community, and takes audiences on a journey with Billy Casper and his dysfunctional family. The young working class boy, troubled at home and at school, finds solace when he befriends and trains a kestrel. As the beloved Kes swoops and spins freely in the Barnsley countryside a special bond between boy and bird unfolds. Billy’s potential is finally realised and the boy’s self-confidence begins to soar.

Kes Reimagined reunites the creative team behind the 2014 stage production. Choreographer Jonathan Watkins is winner of ‘Best Classical Choreography’ at The Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards (2016) and ‘Best New Dance Production’ at The South Bank Sky Arts Awards (2016) for Northern Ballet’s take on George Orwell’s 1984. The original score is by Tony Award nominated Alex Baranowski. Puppetry design and direction is by Rachael Canning. Set and costume design by Ben Stones has been reworked for film and adds video elements by Daniel Denton. Lighting design is by multi Olivier and Tony Award winner Mark Henderson.

Six members of the Crucible Theatre production’s original cast return for the new film. Chester Hayes reprises his role of Billy Casper and is joined by new cast members, Kristen McNally (Principal Character Artist of The Royal Ballet) plays Mum, and Tobias Batley (formerly Northern Ballet Principal, Winston Smith in Watkins’ 1984) plays Jud, Billy’s wayward brother. Also returning for the screen are Dom Czapski as the sympathetic teacher Mr Farthing, Anton Skrzypiciel portrays Headmaster Mr Gryce, and Phil Snowden is Mr Sugden, the self-loving P.E. teacher. Laura Careless and Barnaby Meredith play several roles, and master the Kes puppetry to symbolise Billy’s escape from the harsh realities of his daily life.

Cinema Listings:

Thursday 7 November at 6.30pm
Leeds International Film Festival, Leeds
Venue: Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall
Post-screening Q&A with choreographer Jonathan Watkins and composer Alex Baranowski
Tickets available via

Friday 8 November at 8pm
Showroom Cinema, Sheffield

Saturday 9 November at 5.15pm
Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax