Kite Runner, adapted by Matthew Spangler from the best selling 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini returns to The King’s Theatre Edinburgh in this new 2017 production starring David Ahmad as Amir and Jo Ben Ayed as Hassan/Sohrab.
Our other principal characters are
Emilio Doorgasingh (Baba)
Ravi Aujla (General Taheri/Raymond Andrews)
Bhavin Bhatt (Assef)
Karl Seth (Rahim Khan/Dr Schneider/Omar Faisil)
Amiera Darwish (Soraya/Mrs Nguyen)
Umar Pasha (Kamal/Zaman)
Set in Afghanistan in the mid 1970s, this story is set in the closing years of the only real period of stability that the country had known in the 20th century under the rule of King Mohammed Zahir Shah…stability and a way of life that was soon to be shattered by the Soviet Invasion then the rule of The Taliban. Against this changing background we look at two families – master and servant, and the friendship of two young boys growing up together and enjoying amongst many other activities one of Afghanistan’s favourite activities – Kite Flying and Kite Fighting. It was the very act of The Taliban banning Kite Flying that led author Khaled Hosseini to write his first short story that later developed into this book.
Kite Runner is one of the great stories of modern times and a powerful and at times disturbing work of theatre to watch. In this story, the author gives us a window looking into another world, another culture, but this is no rose tinted romantic view of a lost homeland. Instead, we are looking out of a window that exposes both the beautiful and the ugly in this landscape. Here we see people at their noble best and their despotic worst as not only family bonds, but the deeply ingrained religious and cultural tensions between Pashtun and Hazara are put under the spotlight. The relationship between these Pashtun and Hazara cultures and religions is one that to Western eyes might appear to come from a far earlier period in history, but it provides so much of the underlying story here, and it is interesting to note how these cultural beliefs are so a part of people that they take them with them even when re-locating to a new country and culture.
This is also the story of the uneasy relationship between a boy and his father, childhood betrayal and guilt over those actions, a love story, family loyalty, undeserved personal loyalty and having to leave everything you know behind to start again in a new life.
David Ahmad as Amir and Jo Ben Ayed as Hassan/Sohrab are simply outstanding in their respective roles. This is theatre at its very best with a story that pulls you into its heart immediately and characters that have a depth that makes you actually care what happens to them. Watching David Ahmad effortlessly switch from adult story teller to the young boy Amir is a pleasure to watch, and Jo Ben Ayed as Hassan/Sohrab can say more with a few facial expressions and body language than many less skilled performers can do in a whole play.
There are no weak links here, everyone is so believable in their respective roles that you feel like a small self contained little bubble world has come to an end when this story ends. There is a wonderful story here of tragic events and responsibilities coming round full circle with Amir given an unexpected chance at both spiritual and personal redemption here. Also interesting to watch here Amir’s path to his own spiritual enlightenment when he least expects it to ever happen.
There are many little twists and turns in this story and some hidden family secrets come out in the course of our story, but if you have neither read the book or seen previous productions of this play then I hope some of these secrets are not in reviews as part of the pleasure of this story is becoming immersed in it whilst it unfolds.
Kite Runner is a story of the best of us all and the worst of us all, but also a reminder that prejudice and intolerance are sadly global aspects of humanity and restricted to no one race, country , culture or religion. One can only hope that somehow, small step by small step we all manage to change this sad state of affairs.
A special mention here too for musician Hanif Khan for some wonderful Tabla playing throughout this performance.
Review by Tom King