Unstoppable: ‘The Kite Runner’ Review

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the kite runner
Image credit: Barry Rivett for Hotshot Photography.

★★★★

Devastatingly raw, The Kite Runner, based on the best-selling book of the same name, is unstoppable. It tells Khaled Hosseini’s mesmerising tale across generations of friends, families and lovers, spanning continents, wars, and peacetime. Directed by Giles Croft, the performance doesn’t let up for one second, taking the audience dipping and diving through the streets of Kabul all the way to San Francisco and the immigrant communities formed there. Adapted for stage by Matthew Spangler, The Kite Runner is an epic, ambitious tale full of love, guilt, and humanity and is spell-binding onstage.

Even before the show starts, the audience filter into Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre to Hanif Khan playing the tabla. The traditional Indian music not only sets the scene of 1970s Afghanistan but sinks into the background of scenes, subtly and cleverly emphasising and softening the narrative in turn. It’s to this music we get our first glimpse of the kites. Following a powerful opening scene, Amir (Stuart Vincent) is introduced as the narrator. Flitting between his twelve-year-old and adult self, Vincent is seamless in his boyish innocence and later adulthood. Starring opposite him as his childhood friend, Hassan, Yazdan Qafouri is captivating as the audience watch the pair grow up in a time of relative stability in Kabul.

Whilst painting a picture of the two friends, The Kite Runner details a plethora of relationships. From strained father-son relationships to ones frowned upon in society, the performance intertwines class, politics and culture to weave a picture of a changing Afghanistan over time. Each performer brings compelling gravity, humour and life to their character as the story darkens and spreads across continents.

At points harrowing and at others exhilarating, The Kite Runner is exquisite as it allows scenes to breathe and others to be catapulted into view. As Amir’s father, Dean Rehman is remarkable in his depiction of the struggle of immigration, and the courage required to leave your homeland. Later, Amir’s wife, Soraya (Daphne Kouma), brings another side to the story of the realities faced by women in some Muslim cultures, alongside the bully, Assef (Bhavin Bhatt), delivering a stomach-turning performance.

A simple, yet effective backdrop remains throughout the show. Occasionally, it is intercepted by large screens, mimicking kites, that unfold and separate time and space in the narrative. Projections are sporadic and well-done and the use of musical accompaniment by the ensemble helps in creating particularly tense atmospheres. Melodic and all-consuming, it takes you by the hand back in time to an unravelling Afghanistan to look at the shifting politics and a chance for redemption.

Formidable in its storytelling, The Kite Runner is a tour de force of a performance. Revolving around an incident involving Amir and Hassan as children, the production stretches from the innocence of childhood to the weight that comes with the rest of life. Captivatingly emotional, The Kite Runner can be a tough watch at times. But it’s a show you won’t want to miss and one that will be difficult to forget.

Words by Hannah Goldswain


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