The Kite Runner – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

Writer: Matthew Spangler from the novel by Khaled Hosseini

Director: Giles Croft

Human stories are so often lost in the greater turmoil of life in Afghanistan.

Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s 2005 novel The Kite Runner principally tells Amir’s story of guilt and redemption played out against the backdrop of 25 years of Afghan history, pre-Russian Invasion to Taliban regime.

The events of the winter of 1975 change the privileged Amir’s life forever. His horrific betrayal of his childhood friend Hassan, the son of his father’s servant and kite running expert, leave him with a lasting sense of guilt and shame.

In the present, Amir is living in California when he receives a call from home offering him a chance to “be good again”. So abhorrent are Amir’s actions in 1975 that it is hard to imagine how he can ever achieve redemption, but that roller-coaster ride of emotion is the one we take over two acts and two hours and twenty minutes of emotionally draining action.

As necessary in adaptations from page to stage, much of the rich detail is lost as Spangler distils the story down to its bare essentials. The story is told in flashback by Amir and in linear form. While the story is condensed for the stage, the pace does feel languid at times, but this allows the seriousness of the subject matter to land like a gut-punch.

To Spangler’s credit he shies away from the easy path of making Amir more likeable, easier to forgive. He lays bare his many flaws, at times: spineless, childish, selfish. Can he ever be “good again” when he seems to have never been truly good in the first place? Stuart Vincent as Amir juggles this well throughout. Dean Rehman delivers a perfectly measured performance as Amir’s formidable father Baba as does Yazdan Qafouri who is heart-breaking as Hassan/Sohrab. Bhavin Bhatt is requisitely repulsive as villain Assef.

Barney George’s set is minimalistic but effective, using projections, two wooden slopes, a central square carpet, and kite sails to convey place and time. It is enhanced by Charles Balfour’s atmospheric lighting and the exquisite tabla playing of Hanif Khan.

Is it a fitting representation of the epic novel? Certainly, it is appropriately adapted for the stage.

This is not an easy watch, it is dense, emotional, and draining but absolutely worthwhile to see and hear stories from an under-represented people and culture we are aware of but barely understand.

Runs until 13 April 2024 | Image: Barry Rivett

The Reviews Hub Score

Emotionally draining

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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