The Kite Runner – The HOUSE, Birmingham REP

Writer:Matthew Spangler, from the book by Khaled Hosseini

Director:Giles Croft

Reviewer: John Kennedy

‘I came what I am today at the age of twelve on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.’ Hassan, friend and family servant to narrator, Amir, was the best kite runner in Kabul. It was that day, through fear and cowardice Amir watched neighbourhood bully, Assef, violate Hassan. Ever since, for Amir, ‘..the past claws its way out.’

Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling, semi-autobiographical confessional novel of class-fractured childhood friendship, paternal longing together with betrayal and contrition-driven pursuit for guilt atonement presents stage adaptation writer, Matthew Spangler, with a challenge. He discharges this with commendable imagination and sympathetic nuance that might have easily invited populist melodrama. The time-shift dynamic glides effortlessly, enhanced by Projection Designer, William Simpson’s stunning ‘kite’ wing screens. These work with stunning impact when used in shadow graphic illustration of an execution scene.

Costume design and speech immediately define the class, social-caste status and religious chasm between Pashtun, Amir, with his seemingly effortlessly acquired American accent and Hazara Hassan’s social pariah servant status. Amir is smart-casual comfortably slick in black slacks and white shirt. Dedicated novel readers might take particular issue with how the characters of Hassan/Sohrab are portrayed. Director, Giles Croft, has Jo Ben Ayed in near permanent supine stooped abeyance doing less than justice to his more complex character.

This production infuses Hosseini’s enticing lyrical prose through the medium of both charismatic Amir’s (Raj Ghatak) narrative and the on-stage tabla musicianship of Hanif Khan. Composer and musical director, Jonathan Girling’s primal, immersive sound garden of sonic delights lend further emphasis. Tibetan singing-bowls eerily generate tension, Schwirrbogen,swirling wind-effect hand-rattles, ignite the Kabul kite skies with delirious imagination.

Soroosh Lavasini’s grotesque psychopath, Assef, is as disgustingly convincing as is the imperial pride and emotionally austerity of Amir’s father, Baba, played by Gary Pillai. An accomplished and utterly relevant adaptation of a life-affirming novel that resonates with contemporary relevance.

Runs until 24 March 2018 and on tour | Image: Contributed

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One Comment

  1. I thought that the “play” has excessive amounts of narration. I found it difficult to hear/understand some of what Hassan said. I agree that the portrayal of Hassan in near permanent supine stooped abeyance doing less than justice to his more complex character.” I will avoid Matthew Spangler’s other adaptations.

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