A flight from the past

The Kite Runner

Malvern Theatres

*****

FROM the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan to the destruction of the Twin Towers, the novel and stage adaptation of ‘The Kite Runner’ spans a very traumatic time in the life of the nation of Afghanistan, including a communist revolution, a Soviet invasion and the takeover by the Taliban.

In reflecting those traumas in the story of Amir and Hassan and their families, the writer has attempted something epic and powerfully human.

The play starts in the middle of Amir’s story with the invitation to return from San Francisco to the country of his birth, to redeem the devastating failure of his childhood in abandoning his close friend Hassan to the violence of a local gang. Consequently the first Act is a flashback to those early experiences: the second Act explores his return to intervene in the life of Sohrab, Hassan’s son, and atone for his earlier cowardice and guilt.

This is a very dramatic and moving story about guilt, forgiveness and compensation; it is also a powerful exploration of father-child relationships: for Amir much of his life is an attempt to win his father Baba’s approval; for Baba, life is an attempt to be secretly the father to Hassan that he cannot be openly and publicly; for Soraya, Amir’s wife, too, the relationship with her father adds another dimension to the theme.

There is so much ‘story’ in this novel that the first act contains quite a lot of narrative, delivered by Amir as a narrator to the audience. This takes some time to unfold and can lack some dramatic impact, but it lays the foundation for all the emotional drama that follows. The result is an extreme roller-coaster of emotional and dramatic tension that ended with half the audience rising to its feet at the end of the performance.

The design and staging was simple, striking and effective: the backdrop of a somewhat abstract image of the San Francisco skyline was overlaid by curtains and drapes thkite runner picat provided alternative settings from time to time; the portrayal of the flying of the kites was mimed brilliantly, the use of choreography, oriental music and choral effects complemented the ensemble performance by the cast and created a stirring atmosphere and context for the narrative.

Andrei Costin as hassan and Ben Turner as Amir. Picture: Robert Day

The cast was excellent, even if the accents wobbled a little at times: Ben Turner as Amir was central and powerful. As a child in the early scenes, as a young adult in the second half, he maintained a moving performance with hardly any breathing time off the stage! He communicated the inner turmoil, guilt and anguish of Amir powerfully.

Andrei Costin’s Hassan (and Sohrab) was excellent, the villain Assef played by Nicholas Karimi was deeply sinister, and the fathers played by Emilio Doorgasingh, Antony Bunsee and Ezra Khan were strong, Lisa Zahra as Soraya had a touching stillness to her performance.

This was dramatically a powerful and gut-wrenching evening; there were moments of very wry and ironic humour, but after the slightly slow narrative preparation, we were on a moving journey that stirred the heart strings: the characters this English audience was watching were deeply moved by the humanness of Amir’s suffering, by the unquestioning loyalty and service of Hassan and his father, and ultimately by the sense that there was at the end of a long and painful journey a hope of redemption, forgiveness and a new and more hopeful future.

This is an intense dramatic experience that lacks the popularity of the musical and the comedy, but it is, for the most part, theatre at its very best! To 11-10-14

Timothy Crow

06-10-14 

The Kite Runner's tour brings it back to the Midlands from 20 - 25 October2014 at the

 Theatre Severn Shrewsbury

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