Khaled Hosseini’s utterly heartbreaking story is beautifully and painfully brought to life through Matthew Spangler’s adaptation and Giles Croft’s production.
Based on the 2003 novel, The Kite Runner is a story of guilt, betrayal and redemption that is as poetic and affectionate as it is brutal and honest.
Set in Afghanistan, a country that is on the brink of war, friends Amir and Hassan are about to learn about the true cost of betrayal at a kite flying competition that tears their friendship apart thanks to a horrifying incident that leaves Amir forever trying to deal with his guilt and to find redemption.
What is immediately striking about the production is the way in which it manages to transform from the innocence of the childhood friends playing together to the more brutal nature of the world, filled with fear and hate.
The simplicity of Barney George’s set manages to enhance the poetic nature of the script, while allowing the focus to remain on the characters and their increasingly complex lives as they adapt to changing circumstances.
The story in itself although is pretty straight forward to understand and has adapted well for the stage, but there is such a wide variety of themes and relationships that are explored from Amir’s difficult relationship with his father (which affects his friendship with Hassan and leads to a second betrayal of their friendship) to the depths of loyalty that binds two friends together that can become ever so slightly overwhelming.
Giles Croft’s sensitive production really makes the most of the powerful moments in the story such as when Hassan is brutally and violently attacked by Assef – which although we don’t see, we hear about it in enough detail that it is possibly more horrifying than if the audience had actually seen it. Imagination is a very powerful tool.
Meanwhile, Matthew Spangler’s adaptation is wonderfully poetic that while at times some of the dialogue is missed (some of the cast do need to speak up on occasion), it helps to ensure that the piece flows with ease – even if it is more about a series of situations than a beginning to end story.
But it is the cast that really lift the production and manages to make the audience feel so involved that time passes by quickly. At the centre of it all, watching Ben Turner as Amir attempt to deal with his guilt and grief is painful to watch – particularly when he hits Hussan as he tries to back away from his friendship with him, knowing he has betrayed him is a wonderfully judged performance. Along with the wonderfully sweet and naive performance of Andrei Costin as Hassan, it is difficult to imagine a better pairing on stage.
It is also worth mentioning the chilling and the quietly cruel but brilliant performance of Nicholas Karimi as Assef, who while initially appears to be just another schoolyard bully, soon emerges as someone even darker and more twisted.
The Kite Runner is certainly not just a book, a stage production or film. It is an education on how we all have to deal with the consequences of our actions. It is a tale will last in the minds of those who have read it or seen it for a very long time.
The Kite Runner will play at the Wyndham’s Theatre until the 11th March. To book tickets visit: Ticketmaster.co.uk, Discount Theatre.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.