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The Kite Runner – Liverpool Playhouse

Reviewer: Matthew Forrest

Writer: Khaled Hosseini

Adaptor: Matthew Spangler

Director: Giles Croft

Based on the 2003 Khaled Hosseini novel, The Kite Runner was adapted for the stage by Matthew Spangler in 2009 where it ran on Broadway, and later a UK tour. It once again is in the midst of a full Uk and Ireland tour, this week stopping at the Playhouse In liverpool.

Criss-crossing between Kabul in the mid 1970’s and San Francisco at the turn of the century, the play focuses on the childhood friendship between Amir (Stuart Vincent) and Hassan (Yazdan Qafouri). Amir is from a wealthy Pashtun family, whilst Amir who along with his father, Ali (Tiran Aakel) are servants to Amir and his father.

Amir and Ali are at first inseparable due to their love of the films of John Wayne, as well as the fact that the pair make a formidable kite running duo. On the surface there’s a pure friendship, however, Amir often reminds his playmate that he is the master and Hassan, maybe his best friend, but he is also his servant too.

Amir is raised by his Baba, (Dean Rehman) a successful Afgan businessman. Following the death of Amir’s mother in childbirth Baba and his servant Ali raise Amir and Hassan together. Amir is constantly seeking the approval of his father, who seemingly shows more affection to Hassan rather than his own son.

The boys have to negotiate the changing political landscape of Kabul, which is making the streets more dangerous. In addition they have to contend with local Bully Assef (Bhavin Bhatt) who’s constant harassment leads to an act of unprecedented cruelty and barbarism that will not just destroy Amir and Hassan’s friendship but set their lives on two completely separate paths.

There is a great deal to admire about Spangler’s stage adaptation of this much loved novel. At its heart it is an examination of friendship, trauma , courage and atonement as we see the younger Amir grow to a man scarred by his choices, and his relationships with his best friend and father. The production provides a great insight into Afghanistan’s complicated, turbulent and recent bloody history which very few of us can even begin to comprehend.

The main strength of the production is that the cast are in exceptional form throughout. Stuart Vincent is outstanding as the tortured Amir, wracked with guilt throughout, without straying into melodrama his central turn anchors the production. Yazan Qafouri is equally impressive as the loyal, innocent yet strong Ali. Bhaavin Bhatt is loathsome as the antagonist Assef, it’s a credit to his performance that when he makes your skin crawl every time he appears on stage. Finally Dean Rehman, as Baba has a really strong stage presence, commanding each scene he’s in.

Director Giles Croft does a masterful job, handling the more brutal elements of the story, whilst never pulling its punches. The audiences are shielded from the extreme violent moments with use of screens, shaped like the much cherished kites in the production’s title. In addition the choice of having the super talented musician Hanif Khan on stage throughout is a bold, but rewarding decision that adds to the experience.

This is an intelligent, thought provoking, and uncompromising piece of the theatre, dripping with fine performances and showcasing creatives at the top of their game.

The Kite Runner is at the Playhouse till 27th April

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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