THE KITE RUNNER (play)
Ends 26th August 2017.
NOT SUITABLE FOR THOSE AGED UNDER 14. CONTAINS ADULT THEMES AND STRONG
Afghanistan is a divided country on the verge of war and two childhood
friends are about to be torn apart. It’s a beautiful afternoon in Kabul
and the skies are full of the excitement and joy of a kite flying
tournament. But neither Hassan or Amir can foresee the terrible incident
which will shatter their lives forever.
In 2013, Nottingham Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse
pulled off an extraordinary theatrical coup and secured the rights to
stage the European premiere of The Kite Runner. The subsequent
production toured the UK and was hailed as a theatrical tour de force by
both the public and critics.
With a script completed before the release of the feature film
adaptation, the play was first produced in San Francisco in 2009 by The
San Jose Repertory, and won five San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics’
David Ahmad now plays the show’s narrator, Amir. New to the West End
cast are Ravi Aujla, Umar Pasha Jay Sajjid and Karl Seth.
Emilio Doorgasingh returns in the pivotal role of Baba, Andrei Costin as
Hassan, Lisa Zahra, Ezra Khan, Bhavin Bhatt and Tabla musician Hanif
A second West End run for a production first seen at the Wyndhams
Theatre in December 2016.
Photography credit: Irina Chira. Main photo top: Andrei Costin, Amir:
David Ahmad. Photo below: Wedding scene.
For current generations, the word “Afghanistan” means troubles.
Fundamentalism, war, the poverty and famine that they bring. It is difficult to
remember that once its cities thrived with diverse culture, everyday commerce
Competitive kite flying was popular, the object being to cut the strings of
opponents’ kites with the glass-lined string of your own. Most highly prized
were the fallen kites – retrieved by “kite runners,” of whom Hassan (Andrei
Costin) was the best.
Of despised minority Hazara faith, he and father Ali (Ezra Faroque Khan) eke out
a miserable existence as long-time family servants to Baba (Emilio Doorgasingh)
and son Amir (David Ahmed), our narrator and Hassan’s friend since birth.
A lengthy tale of betrayal, migration, fear and love unfolds over two and a half
spell-binding hours. To the beat of musician Hanif Khan’s onstage drums (arrive
early, you will not want to miss his atmospheric pre-show performance; watch his
hands closely, amazing) the ensemble take us from Kabul to Pakistan to San
Francisco and back again, always from an Afghan perspective of faith, familial
loyalty and devastating religious prejudice.
Full-company set-pieces with instruments and crowds build tension. Whether the
joy of a Muslim wedding, all in spectacular green with beautiful traditional
dance from bride Soraya (Lisa Zahra) and song; or dramatic meeting with Amir’s
nemesis Assef (chillingly controlled psychopathic performance from Bhavin Bhatt)
they never fail.
Telescoping to simple two-person conversation also brings out revelations. The
best involve kindly family friend Rahmin Khan (lovely avuncular work from Karl
Seth). These interactions require close attention, as they contain details vital
to the story.
If there is a weakness, it is the over-use of Amir acting as solo narrator –
particularly in the longer second half. Other complex novels like “Les
Misérables” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night Time” have found
ways around such theatrical inertia. Perhaps if Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of
the Khaled Hosseini and director Giles Croft’s vision had a little more time and
budget, a more evenly dramatic approach to the text may have been possible.
That said, Barney George gives us a wonderfully effective backdrop and simple
slopes, William Simpson manages fireworks in his projections, Charles Balfour
captures the light of the locations and Kitty Winter and Philip d’Orleans stage
movement and fights respectively to devastating effect.
The night truly belongs to Ahmad, Costin, Doorgasingh, Zahra (and father General
Taheri – Ravi Aujla), though. The strongest of the strong characters we meet,
remaining true to their origins even as each new trauma unfolds. Often
presenting challenging views and responses alien to Western culture, yet logical
when given context here, opening theatregoers minds to new possibilities and
perspectives with every scene.
There’s a reason this production has been revived so soon after its previous
West End run, and no reason, the monkey feels, for it to end its run any time
soon on the London stage. In a time of great cultural unrest, this is the
panacea. Not only an explanation, but also a simple study of human frailty and
universal strength - given compelling and unforgettable life.