One man’s journey to confront his past and find redemption is vividly conveyed in Giles Croft’s outstanding production of The Kite Runner (Wyndhams Theatre), adapted by Matthew Spangler from Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling 2003 novel.
It tells the tale of Amir, a 12-year old boy from Kabul who is close friends with Hassan, the son of this father’s servant. Amir is desperate to win a kite-fighting tournament to gain his Father’s approval, Kite-fighting is a popular Afghan pastime, with pieces of crushed glass fixed to the kite’s string so that a competitor can slash an opponent’s line and bring his kite down. Boys too poor to have their own kite rush to retrieve the losing one as it falls – they are known as kite runners and Hassan is one of the best.
However this friendship is torn apart by a terrible incident and act of cowardice on Amir’s part on the day he wins the kite-fighting contest. Amir’s quest to make amends in later life by rescuing Hassan’s son from an orphanage presided over by the arch- bully sociopath of his childhood becomes a powerful emblem of how individuals and by extension societies, can learn from their past errors and find the courage to make fresh starts.
This is an emotional roller coaster, peppered with biting humour and high drama, which explores father-son relationships, social values, love and violence and guilt and redemption. It is set at a time when Afghanistan is facing a series of tumultuous events – from the fall of the country’s monarchy, through the soviet invasion, the upheavals of immigration to the United States and the fundamentalist darkness of the Taliban, all these worlds finally colliding in 9/11. With limited resources, the production manages to convey the epic nature of the story while never deviating from the main focus of this essentially intimate drama.
Croft indeed manages to instil a sense of fluidity and authenticity to the episodic proceeding using simple techniques such as projections on back sheets, mimed kite flying, moving and disturbing human interaction and the live, suspenseful underscoring of a tabla-player, he conjures up a swirling sense of different landscapes and locations and even pulls off the trick of having adult actors portray wide-eyed youth.
Ben Turner gives a towering performance as the bookish Pashtun boy Amir and the narrator of the story, while Andrei Costin also commends attention and our sympathy, conveying so much with just a glance, in his portrayal of the fiercely loyal friend Hassan, for whom nothing is too much trouble. Solid support comes from Emilio Doorgasingh as Amir’s strict, yet proud father, Antony Bunsee as General Taheri, Lisa Zahra as Soraya, the woman Amir weds and Nicholas Karimi as the sociopath and later evil Taliban leader Assef.
Poignant, touching, sad and shocking in equal measure this riveting play proves that love, war, class and politics are never far away from one another and relationship problems can be the same whatever your race or colour.
The Kite Runner
Playing at the Wyndhams Theatre until 11 March 2017Last modified: January 18, 2017