As four of us headed to Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake to watch Kes, we discussed how the hawk might be created on stage.

We were all wrong. A big part of the beauty and power of this brilliant production was its unpredictable new take on Barry Hines’ much-loved classic tale.

Kes has been adapted for stage by Robert Alan Evans and is directed by Atri Banerjee.

This is not Kes as we know it but it remains faithful to the spirit of the original.

Taking up much of the stage was a three-sided box – a simple, soulless, near-empty room with net curtains over the windows and a door at either end.

On a platform above the room appeared a woman (Nishla Smith), who squatted down, fingers gripping the edge of the ledge, scanning the audience with hawk-like intensity.

The room represented the home of teenager Billy Casper (Jake Dunn), growing up in 1960s Yorkshire with his mum and older brother (both played by Harry Egan).

There were no outward signs of family life but an overpowering undercurrent of anger, resentment and a tragic sense of futility.

Shouting, aggressive words and actions were the norm, against a backdrop of drinking and gambling. His brother worked down the pits and Billy was expected to follow.

School life was not much better – angry teachers, cold showers in the gym.

There was a real physicality, brutal energy and fabulous choreography. Harry Egan expertly played a range of characters including, at times, the narrator.

As well as he and Billy regularly leaping on and off the stage within a stage, he worked his way around and through the audience, connecting with many of them.

Moving quietly and gracefully among all the raw, noisy energy was Nishla, a singer. Her beautiful, haunting voice representing something completely different.

Billy had been born into a tough world, lacking in love, hope or a future beyond the pits. There was no one to inspire or help him see beyond his futile existence – until he found his kestrel hawk, which he cared for and trained.

The bird’s silent strength and grace inspired a passion and freedom that was missing in Billy’s life.

His Kes provides quiet moments of beauty when Billy can rise above all the horrible hostile home life and feel alive.

These moments, alongside beautiful songs, are fleeting - heightening their effect.

I would have liked more of these poetic pauses – as I’m sure Billy would. But that was real life.

The trio worked so well together in an intense, stunning one-hour production.

Kes, like Swim which I saw earlier in the week at Theatre by the Lake, was refreshingly unpredictable. I’m hoping there will be lots more like this as theatres reopen and move forward.

Kes runs until April 30. Tickets and more details at