The Kite Runner

In 1970s Kabul, Amir and Hassan are friends. They have grown up together, and Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant. This is a middle class Afghani family. They take part in kite flying competitions – and when Amir wins the competition one day he inadvertently sets in motion a train of events that will echo through the decades and finally come to a head in Taliban controlled Kabul 30 years later.

This play is based upon the bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini, and has been adapted for the theatre by Matthew Spangler. It is beautifully directed by Giles Croft.

I’ve never read the book or seen the film, so I went into this one completely cold. I did see it with a friend who had read the book, and both of us found it to be a thoroughly engrossing evening.

Amir is our narrator, and he takes us through 30 years of personal history as well as the turbulent history of Afghanistan over the same period. The other 12 actors all play multiple parts.

The narration device works well even though we know from the start that things aren't really going to work out well for many of those we meet in Kabul.

Upon entering the theatre, musician Hanif Khan was already sat front of stage playing various percussion and musical instruments, which beautifully set the scene.

There was a simple, yet very effective set which is curved at the sides to allow our kite runners to do a lot of running, particularly in the first act. There are some beautiful ‘sails’ that go up and down, to portray pomegranate trees, tent sides, and other effects. It is really very clever.

The entire cast play their parts and different roles very well. However, the acting honours really go to both Yazdan Qafouri as Hassan (and later his son Sohrab) and to Stuart Vincent as Amir. In fact, Stuart’s performance as Amir is a tour de force. He is barely off stage throughout, and covers the playful innocence of childhood; the dashing of that innocence in a brutal horrifying manner; and then the political destabilising of their beloved country and the descent into war, Soviet occupation, more war, and then the take over (again) by the Taliban, and all that entails. Along the way, he and his father escape Afghanistan and make a new life in San Francisco, but Amir cannot escape his roots.

There were some light, funny moments, but the horror of war and of growing up in such uncertain frightening times, is so well done. The brutality is very well portrayed.

It pulls our emotions in so many directions, but it does just what great theatre should. It challenges, and makes us think, whilst not losing the power to entertain. This is a highly recommended production.

This show was reviewed on the 30th April 2024 at the Oxford Playhouse where it runs until the 4th May 2024.  Tickets available here: The Kite Runner | Oxford Playhouse

Full tour details here: Tour Dates — The Kite Runner Play

Review written by Ruth Hawkins


Photo credit: Barry Rivett for Hotshot Photography

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