The Kite Runner gets powerful stage adaptation from Matthew Spangler (3 stars)

Theatre review: The Kite Runner

Uneven at times, but still retains many powerful moments from Khaled Hosseini story

Adapted by Matthew Spangler from Khaled Hosseini's best-selling novel, this production deftly directed by Giles Croft traces the bookish, well-to-do but gutless Amir (David Ahmed) and his uneasy friendship with his servant, the persecuted Hazara boy Hassan (Jo Ben Ayed) as the tale navigates a perilous journey through Afghanistan's conflict from the 1970s to the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

There is much in the way of inventive staging, with kites serving as a totem of the lost innocence of not only Amir, but the ravages of Kabul itself. The sound is wonderful: Jonathan Girling's drones augmented by fiery live tabla played by Hanif Khan. Poignant projections of fireworks, pomegranate trees and forests, created by Barney George on the kites' canvases bring an affective mythical quality to the first half. Exiles and ominous shadowy figures haunt the play, including the veiled scene of sexual abuse, which sets in motion a chain of terrible events.

However, the tone is inconsistent: by placing Amir as narrator, it dilutes the action, rushing towards the conclusion and flattening some of the more lyrical lines of text; an uneasy fit between family drama and war story. It has most impact as a chronicle of toxic masculinity and the entrenched behaviour of warmongers.

Far and away the best performance comes from a towering Emilio Doorgasingh as Amir's hypocritical and emotionally inarticulate father, who is motivated by money, and honour. His tentative scenes of reconciliation with Amir are the truest distillation of the moral message: history informs the present, for as he says at the outset, 'the past claws its way out'.

The Kite Runner tours the UK until Sat 26 May 2018.

The Kite Runner

  • Directed by: Giles Croft
  • Written by: Khaled Hosseini (book), Matthew Spangler (adapt)

Matthew Spangler's adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's novel about friendships that can span continents.

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