Here are Mark Brown's latest theatre and dance reviews...

Perth Theatre
Three stars
Until November 16

Richard Alston Dance Company
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
At Theatre Royal, Glasgow,
November 19

It is 50 years since Ken Loach’s iconic film Kes immortalised Barry Hines’s 1968 novel A Kestrel for a Knave. Since then there have been many stage adaptations of Hines’s tale of Billy Casper, a troubled 15-year-old boy in a northern English mining town who finds solace and self-worth in taming and training a young, abandoned kestrel.

The British mining industry may be a thing of the past, but it isn’t hard to see why Hines’s story and, more particularly, Loach’s movie continue to endure. The brilliance of the novel and the film notwithstanding, there is a timelessness to the narrative of a working-class teenager who is neglected by his incapable single parent, brutalised by his older brother and alienated from the education system.

Not only that, but, soberingly, the poverty described by Hines and Loach back in the late-Sixties is all-too-recognisable in food bank Britain in 2019. Perth Theatre’s artistic director Lu Kemp couldn’t have known that the starting gun would fire on the General Election just as she opened her new production (which is based upon Robert Alan Evans’s tried-and-tested stage adaptation). However, it’s hard to imagine a more election-ready drama.

This is particularly true of the chilling scene in which the brutal headmaster Gryce, a long cane (his corporal weapon of choice) in hand, rails against the moral decline of the Sixties. A man who sees working-class people as a dangerous mob that has to be disciplined by violence and hard labour, he would, surely, have signed up to the Rees-Mogg doctrine that the victims of the Grenfell fire died due to a lack of “common sense”.

A tight two-hander (coming in at just under an hour), Evans’s drama is played by Danny Hughes and Matthew Barker. Young Hughes has all of the frustration, energy and enthusiasm (for the kestrel) required by his character, although he lacks something of Billy’s vulnerability. Barker is impressively comic and dispiriting as he plays all of the other characters, from Billy’s empathetic older self to his angry, desensitised miner brother Jud.

Kenneth MacLeod’s detailed, quasi-abstract set is visually forgettable and insufficiently flexible. Nevertheless, Kemp’s production is, in the end, a very worthwhile staging of an enduring classic.

From the return of one old friend to the sad departure of another. After 25 years of dance making, Richard Alston Dance Company (RADC) is bidding farewell with Final Edition, a selection of brand new works and recent pieces from the repertoire.

Alston is one of the great figures of British dance. A former student at the school of the legendary American dance artist Merce Cunningham, he served as artistic director of Ballet Rambert in the Eighties and Nineties.

Alston (who, earlier this year, became a knight of the realm for his services to dance) created his own company in 1994, the same year in which he became artistic director of London dance venue The Place. From that base, he has toured his work extensively, building strong relationships with audiences, not least here in Scotland.

A true gentleman of the dance world, Alston’s support for youth dance companies is noteworthy. It is, perhaps, ironic, therefore, that the demise of RADC should have come about because, as Alston explains in his programme notes, the Arts Council of England has determined that The Place should shift its focus to touring work by younger artists, rather than continuing to be the home of Alston’s company.

The choreographer has been unambiguous about his disappointment about this state of affairs, albeit that he has expressed himself in characteristically diplomatic terms. He has stated, quite rightly, that he believes that older artists should be a part of the dance landscape, and he pledged to the Edinburgh audience that he would be back in some capacity, staging work at the Festival Theatre in future.

As in 2017, the Edinburgh show began with a curtain raiser by the youth company Evolution Dance from Inverurie. Their piece, entitled Pursuit, is a complex, difficult, beautifully executed work. Danced to music by Prokofiev, it is testament to the extraordinary work that is being done with young dancers in Aberdeenshire.

The RADC programme itself dances Alston’s delightful, well-established line between classical ballet and more contemporary work. A simple, stark set, with colours changing on the back wall contrasts purposefully with music by Brahms, Chopin, Elgar and, most spectacularly, Monteverdi.

Recently established works (the lovely Brahms Hungarian and the gently sensual Mazur) were complemented in Edinburgh by two new pieces, A Far Cry (by RADC’s associate choreographer Martin Lawrance) and Voices and Light Footsteps (by Alston). The first of the pair boasts grand balletics and moments of frentic excitement that echo Chopin’s music splendidly.

Voices and Light Footsteps, by contrast, is a moving and intelligent choreography that is content to dance, colourfully and gracefully, and with a beautiful tension between freedom and form, in the shadow of Monteverdi’s heart-breakingly beautiful music.