The book then became popular in 1976 when it was adapted into a film by Alan Stronach and the title changed from ‘A Kestrel For A Knave” to the simple title of ‘Kes’. Barry Hines was a working class realist, he grew up in Barnsley and it is obvious that the ideas of this book come from his own experiences in Barnsley where times were hard and the best prospects for a child’s future, were working down the pit. He used this book to get the message across of what a certain kind of life was really like.
The way that he uses the possibility of theatre in the novel is very effective. Obviously there are some things that would be able to be used in film but not in theatre such as a live kestrel, music and quick effective scene changes. But, messages of hardship and sadness are more effective on stage because the audience feel closer to the actors as they are right in front of them in the flesh. There are many examples of stage directions used in the novel that show Hines’ intentions to make the scenes serious when performed on stage.
For example, there are a lot of mentions of violence in this play where Hines has made it clear (using directions from the author) that the scene should not be funny but the message of sadness, yet reality be conveyed. In the first few lines of the story we see how the plot is going to unveil when we see the living conditions of Billy and his brother. It starts off telling us about how Billy and Jud are sharing the same bed and to most people, this fact is very shocking, and with this being the first line of the story, Hines has already captured our imaginations and surprised us with the plays open brutality.
The violence shown by Jud and the lack of love for his brother are also very disturbing. Billy tries to be considerate to his brother by telling him that he is late for work but Jud reacts by telling Billy to shut up and ultimately, punches him! Billy then asks him to set the alarm for him but Jud plainly refuses and pulls the bedclothes off Billy. This is very shocking and with Hines’ play directions, it clearly shows how he wanted this point conveyed in a theatre by using plain and simple directions such as “He thumps Billy”, “He pulls the bedclothes off Billy” and “He drains the teapot so that there is no tea left for Billy” This is only the first scene and already there are many disturbing aspects of the story and a theatre audience would probably not have expected to see these.
Jud drains all the tea from the pot, leaving none for Billy and puts Billy down by saying that he is destined to work down the pit. Billy then drinks from the bottle of milk. This is only a small detail but is equally horrific. Audiences who are going to see a play normally want to be lost in a fantasy world where everything is perfect and everyone is happy, but this play comes as a surprise to them. Jud then steals Billy’s bike, which he well knows Billy needs for his paper round. It is in this first scene that we know that Billy has a harsh life if his own brother treats him like this.
There is a big use of bad language in this play. People don’t usually expect to hear such foul language at the theatre especially off young children. So, this ultimately leads to more shocking feelings by the audience, which we know, were Hines’ goal. The language used by Macdowall’s mom when Billy calls for him to go bird watching is also very horrific. Billy’s own mother, toward him and Jud, uses more bad language and this is quite unbelievable as this is the one person you expect to set an example to Billy.
The amount of people who are rude to Billy is quite vast. There doesn’t seem a place for Billy to turn to where he can be treated equally and fairly. Not even his own mother, the one person you expect Billy to be able to turn to in a time of need, helps him. When Billy has discovered that Jud has killed the bird, he tries to hug his mother for affection. But, she pushes him away. Hines made it clear in his directions that when this part is to be performed, it is meant to be one of the most shocking parts of the play.
Everyone is rude to Billy: Jud, Mr. Porter, his mother, Mrs. Macdowall, the Farmer, The Librarian, Mr. Gryce, Mr. Crossly, Anderson, Mr.Sugden and the Youth Employment Officer. But there is a reprieve for Billy. Mr. Farthing and the Milkman are the only people who seem to talk to Billy instead of talking down to him. Mr. Farthing is the first person to actually show an interest in him. He encourages Billy to show off his potential and the scene where he tells the class about Kes is remarkable.
Mr. Farthing actually calls round to where Billy keeps Kes and watches him training him. The stage directions are very clear to make it out, as this scene is where Billy gets a break from the world is against him, and this is where he is actually wanted. This scene would be very effective on stage, as the audience would have a closer feeling of this scene with Billy. He even encourages Billy to state his opinions in things by asking him questions. This gives a happy feeling for the audience as they have already experienced Billy’s pain and now that he is actually happy, so are they.