★★★ | The Kite Runner
Set against the historical backdrop of social and political change in Afghanistan, The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir and Hassan, who are best friends despite their difference in religion, class and social standing. The pair are inseparable, until Amir stands by as a shocking event tears apart their world and their friendship. But as the years pass, Amir has the opportunity to redeem himself and redress his guilt in a way which he would have never imagined possible.
The play is based on the best-selling book by Khaled Hosseini and is a heart-breaking tale of friendship, betrayal, divided loyalties, family acceptance and social pressure. It also touches on themes of culture, religion, terrorism and of the life experienced by a country faced with invasion, dictatorship and war. Whilst the central the themes are numerous and remain relevant, the staging is stripped back and straightforward; and the whole show is presented with no fuss or spectacle, which allows the writing, script and narrative to shine through. The play’s strength lies in its flowing language which reflects the source material and, as you listen to the actors, you feel like you are reading a book. The addition of traditional Afghan instruments providing an atmospheric, minimalist soundtrack which enhances the uncluttered approach and provides a real atmosphere to the proceedings.
In terms of performances, David Ahmad was broadly engaging in his performance as the narrator and protagonist, Amir, although never fully convinced in terms of his emotions; whilst Jo Ben Ayed provided a subtle turn as the meek and withdrawn Hassan. Standing out from the ensemble cast was Emilio Doorgasingh as Baba, Amir’s father, with a commanding and intimidating stage presence befitting of his character.
It is an ambitious play which encompasses many themes and many key aspects of the character’s lives over a number of years, meaning that there is a lot to get through, and the second act does feel slightly crammed and borders on being a little overlong towards the end; but the story overall remains absorbing and holds the attention.
The Kite Runner is a visually restrained production which provides for a thought-provoking, relevant and touching story which carries with it a lot of emotion.