Torches flash, voices yell: "Billy Casper" but the figure that tumbles into view isn't the young lad at the heart of Barry Hines's 60s novel, or the Ken Loach film, Kes.

The Man (Sean Murray) is the here-and-now adult Billy: but not spotting that certainly won’t stop anyone from getting sucked into the memories he brings alive when teenage Billy (James Anthony Pearson) emerges from the shadows, perched high, like a bird against the monochrome backdrop, and whispering reassurances to the fledgling kestrel he’s rescued.

Who knows why the Man is revisiting the scenes of such a scarring time. Rob Evans’s astutely brisk, yet lingeringly poetic script for this Catherine Wheels adaptation allows room for our own reflections, but as the evocative scenes build into a slice of Billy’s haphazard, put-upon life you sense there is no happy ending. Like his beloved kestrel, killed in a moment’s vengeful fury by a bullying elder brother, Billy seems doomed to be crushed: by people, circumstances and systems that should nurture him, but deny him his dreams.

Utterly convincing performances from Pearson and Murray – the latter deftly playing all the other characters, including Billy’s feckless mother – unlock the humour, resilience and splinters of joy from the bleakness of Billy’s life while bursts of on-screen colour footage reveal just how the kestrel transforms the world for him. Everything, from Karen Tennant’s junkyard of a set, to director Gill Robertson’s sure yet light touch, to Danny Krass’s soaring, lyric music makes this production for the over-10s fly with feeling. Look out for it on tour.