In what is possibly the most powerful play I have ever seen, Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is an absolute triumph. Telling the story of Amir’s journey from a childhood in Kabul through to his new life as an author in America, the audience is greeted with some gritty themes and hard-to-watch scenes. We see larger-than-life Baba, Amir’s dad, transform from a well-known figure to a weak, dying refugee. We see evil Assef go from childhood bully to a dangerous member of the Taliban. We see Amir’s best friend Hassan (and servant) defend his master and stand by him through assault and unspeakable trauma, while we see Amir betray him in return and become ruined with guilt. Finally, and most beautifully, we see our hero Amir begin to make amends for his perceived wrongdoings. It’s utterly heartbreaking from start to finish and entirely captivating.
David Ahmad is totally believable as Amir. We see Amir grow from childhood through to adulthood and, through subtle changes in accent and mannerism, Ahmad provides this character development beautifully. He narrates the play somewhat expositionally, which works perfectly and gives a clear narrative to what is a fairly complex plot, full of character and cultural intricacies that are clearly explained through Amir’s speeches to the audience. Emilio Doorgasingh (Baba), Karl Seth (Rahim Khan), and Ezra Faroque Khan (Ali) bring the book’s favourite adult characters to life with subtlety and poignancy. Small examples, such as Ali’s limp, are played out without being overt. When Baba cries, the moment is beautiful thanks to its simplicity – howls of sobs would have been unrealistic and annoying, but this production gets every key moment spot on.
For those who know the book, or who have seen the show, you’ll know the phrase “I ran”. You will never hear those two words bring tears to your eyes so quickly.
Jo Ben Ayed plays the loveable Hassan, and goodness how loveable he is. His sweet nature and absolute loyalty makes his defeats so difficult to watch, and it is Jo Ben Ayed’s acting skills that makes these key moments so powerful.
We are transported to Kabul through authentic, live music and a simplistic set that adorns the stage with two large kites that showcase various projections throughout the show to provide a visual representation of the narration. Hats off to Barney George – the set design is absolutely perfect, allowing the scenes to move from Kabul to America, from the streets of the kite tournament to Baba’s study. The clever lighting and projection enables the audience to be fully immersed in every scene.
Such total commitment to bringing a modern classic to life should be applauded. To get it so beautifully perfect brings this show to a different level of theatrical wonder altogether. This is a show you will never forget.
See The Kite Runner at West Yorkshire Playhouse until 23rd September.