DramaReviewSouth East

The Kite Runner – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Writer: Khaled Hosseini

Adapter: Matthew Spangler

Director: Giles Croft

Reviewer: Lu Greer

Khaled Hosseini’s debut novelThe Kite Runnerwas a massive literary success as it tackled a multitude of complex issues including the complexities of family and friendship, love, politics, class, transnational immigration, and the struggle of the refugee. Told from the point of view of a grown Amir looking back upon his childhood in 1970s Kabul, Afghanistan, this is a tale with a great deal of depth and intricacies to attempt to explore within a couple of hours on the stage.

The play is narrated by Amir (Raj Ghatak), with him pausing lengthy reams of narrative to portray himself in the key scenes of his life and is split into two key acts: the first of his Afghanistan childhood, and the second of himself as an adult refugee in San Francisco. Ghatak demonstrates a versatility here, in switching from an adult Amir to himself as a child relatively seamlessly. He is, however, somewhat overshadowed by Jo Ben Ayed as Hassan, who’s natural likeability combined with the character’s desire to please creates an amiable and affecting character. With the turning point of the story being a violent attack upon Hassan, and witnessed by Amir, Ayed’s ability to capture the essence of his character makes the brutality of the attack all the more moving, and genuinely distressing for the audience.

In the first act, the use of near-constant narrative, interspersed with scenes from Amir’s life, works reasonably well as we get to know the friends and watch the tensions surrounding them pull and shape them. By the second act, however, this speaking narrative becomes rather wearing and instead of being enthralled by the story there is a sense that perhaps it would have been more engaging to simply read the book itself. What saves this show though, is the combination of sets and music. The sets (Barney George) are subtle but versatile, as is most evident in the transition from Kabul to San Francisco, the skyline brings life to the story and moves utterly seamlessly with the story, whilst the music is led by Hanif Khan playing the tabla live at the front of the stage. This music adds an authenticity to the Afghanistan scenes, and its careful pacing works to add tension subtly and seamlessly.

There are certainly captivating points within this production as key moments of Amir’s life pack an emotional punch. They are, however, more often than not, swallowed up by the spotlight on Amir’s narration. The depth and complexity are lost somewhere between the lengthy expositions and moments of action, leaving the play feeling almost like a short ‘best of’ reel for a book that should have been told in its entirety, but there simply wasn’t time for. Whilst there are moments of brilliance, there is certainly a sense by the final curtain that we would perhaps have been better off reading the book.

Runs Until: 10th of March 2018 | Image: Contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Not as good as the book

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The Reviews Hub - South East

The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. 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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