REVIEWS: Kes and John Coliani Quartet

Sally Carman with cast members in rehearsals. Picture: James Mulkeen
Sally Carman with cast members in rehearsals. Picture: James Mulkeen

A couple of reviews from the best events taking place across the region.


kes, cast theatre, waterdale, doncaster

Cast’s first birthday celebrations get underway this month not just with cake, champagne and clouds of coloured balloons, but with a special new adaptation of Kes from the ever popular novel, both violent and tender, A Kestrel for a Knave, by local writer Barry Hines. Adapted and directed by Philip Osment and Kully Thiarai for Right Up Our Street, this production skilfully combines a cast of multi-tasking talents both local and professional who spring to life in Nigel Gresley Square (complete with real kestrel) before taking to the stage as the characters and school children who populate the 1960’s South Yorkshire pit village where young Billy Casper lives.

Austere, grey walls of brick and stone predominate, the pit-head looming over Billy’s home, school and social life, making his future prospects as relentlessly bleak and gloomy as his present life.

Sliding smoothly, these walls swiftly reconfigure to shape around Billy’s dysfunctional home with its his cold, shared bedroom, then his unwelcoming school (with its drab motto Semper Eadem - same old, same old!), the library, bookshop, betting-shop or the hole-in-the-wall chip-shop, while a descending stage section is also used for scene changes and is a pleasingly effective pit cage.

In contrast, when, all at once, the drab walls disappear, bright open fields offer Billy escape and, like the kestrel he nurtures, a chance to fly free.

Scenes and dialogue, all spoke wi’ t’ proper local accent, stick close to the original text to bring out both comedy and heart-rending tragedy, but now a new narrative framework is added as an ageing Billy Casper (Ray Castleton) takes to the stage.

Mellow, affable, comfortable, offering encouragement to new generations of youngsters, he addresses the audience (and actors within the audience) then stands in the shadows to look on with them at significant moments that shaped his childhood, adding, from time to time, a little deeper narration and description.

The downtrodden, humiliated, victimised young Billy (Jacob James Beswick) may be slightly less of a pathetic, puny runt than sometimes portrayed, but he wins great sympathy, especially in his bitter clashes with the selfish thug and heartless bully who is his brother Jud (and his Nemesis), strongly played by Ben Burman, or when his neglectful mum (Sally Carman) fails him at every turn.

The comic touches go down a treat, especially in classic scenes like the football lesson, in which domineering, know-it-all egoist, the ridiculous Mr Sugden (aka a fantasy Bobby Charlton, aka Jim Pope) blows his own trumpet, blasts loud and shrill on his whistle and steamrollers every boy in his path.

The youngsters are played by local lads, lasses and budding stars, who endeavour to recreate this brutish slice of sixties’ life from an era that was already well in the past before they were even born, whilst performing with panache some neat, stylised movement sequences.

The poor, wee innocent, caned in error by Headmaster Gryce and later caught unexpectedly in full view, sitting on the lavvie, is a particular hit.

The most effective, heart-stopping impact comes towards the end after Billy has lost Kes, when he raises his jacket over his head and its shadow takes the form of a gigantic, silhouette of a kestrel, like an irrepressible phoenix rising from the ashes.

-Eileen Caiger Gray



John coliani quartet, wakefield jazz club

Winner of the first Thelonius Monk Piano Competition,the virtuoso piano man held the enthusiastic packed audience in rapturous appreciation from the opening bars of ‘There will never be another you’ to the evening’s closer ‘Stella by starlight’.

This was interspaced by well chosen contrasting improvisation worthy standards, including the famed be-bop anthem ‘Anthropology’ and Harold Arlan’s ‘Get Happy’.

These songs helped to demonstrate John’s Stride piano ‘chops’ in a breath-taking outing reflecting the influence of ‘Stride piano’ greats James P. Johnson, Fats Waller and others of the genre with consummate ease.

Further stunning highlights included renditions of ‘Have you met Miss Jones?’, ‘Satin Doll’, ‘The continental’ and ‘Where or when’--plus a delightful solo medley of ‘Begin the beguine’, ‘Willow weep for me’ and ‘Misty’ , before being re-joined by accompanying top drawer Scottish musicians, guitarist Kevin Mackenzie, double bassist Jay Kilbride and drummer Chris Whitehouse--who all performed with un-canny instinctive empathy with the piano master.

A personal bonus, was the opportunity to briefly chat with John between sets and relish his reminiscences of working with legendary Jazz greats such as Lionel Hampton as well as chart hit jazz singer Mel Torme, Benny Goodman, amplified guitar pioneer Les Paul , and even jazz loving film star Woody Allen.

This was a fabulous start to Wakefield Jazz Clubs new season and was well worth a watch.

- Charles Worsdale