DramaFeaturedNorth WestReview

The Kite Runner – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen

Writer: Khaled Hosseini

Adaptor: Matthew Spangler

Director: Giles Croft

The name of this play comes with a reputation – a powerful and poignant page-turner that got readers everywhere talking back when it was released in 2003.

Based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner has been adapted for both stage and screen, with the former being done by the immensely talented Matthew Spangler. And it’s safe to say, that no damage has been done to that reputation – with a piece of theatre that is at once beautiful and heartbreaking.

Director Giles Croft has remained faithful to the original novel, telling the story of Amir (Stuart Vincent), a Sunni Muslim, from his childhood in Afghanistan through to becoming an immigrant in the United States. It follows Amir as he struggles with relationships and emotions, not knowing how to cope or respond fairly when his ‘friend’ Hassan (Yazdan Qafouri) – the son of their servant – is targeted in the most horrific of circumstances, while being the brave ‘kite runner’. He makes wrong decisions in a bid to make his father Baba (Dean Rehman) proud, but is made to face them head on when he’s invited back to his home country years later.

The story is told by the protagonist Amir, who often breaks the fourth wall to invite audiences into his story of regret and redemption. Vincent never misses a beat, delivering line after line (and there are many of them) with confidence and charisma. He plays the leading man with ease, never faltering or flustering and keeping the momentum of the whole show moving, so it never becomes stagnant.

He is supported by a phenomenal cast – not one of them a weak link. Qafouri has you captivated from beginning to end, his loyalty despite betrayal leaving you feeling so desperately proud, sorry and frustrated all at the same time. Rehman and Christopher Glover as Rahim Khan also portray their father characters exceptionally well and Bhavin Bhatt as Assef is a believable and sadistic villain, who has you hating him from the moment he torments the two young boys near the start of Act One. With such a huge amount of dialogue to get through, a number of fight scenes and often harrowing content (there’s a few light-hearted moments, especially in Act 2, which help break this up), it’s a mentally and physically demanding ask for these performers to come back and deliver night after night. And yet they do just that, giving so much of themselves emotionally to bring such a much-loved story to life.

Theres a musical current running throughout the play, complimenting and enhancing the narrative. It never overshadows the dialogue, but it does play a vital role in the show – the Singing Bowls, the Schwirrbogen, the Harmonium, the oil-drum, mallet and most memorably the Tabla (played by Hanif Khan, who was found after an extensive UK audition process) building suspense and setting the tone for each scene.

The set and lighting also play a vital role – and while simple, they do a fabulous job of maintaining an intimacy in a large performance space. The spotlighted moments keep you focused on important pieces of dialogue and the moving set, including two large beautifully decorated kites that act as a screen or backdrop, also help the actors and audience transition from scene to scene.

The themes that run throughout this play are tough and not for the faint-hearted – there’s sexual assault, there’s the Soviet-Afghan War, there’s childhood trauma and so much more. But whether you’ve read the book or not, this js a must-see piece of theatre that won’t exactly leave you high as a kite, but that promises to leave a lasting impression on you for a long time to come.

Runs until 11 May 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Poignant and powerful

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The Reviews Hub - North West

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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