The Kite Runner is a novel by Khaled Hosseini (who also wrote ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and ‘And the Mountains Echoed’) which echoes real life in the world of Sunnis and Shia Muslims in Afghanistan, more specifically Kabul in the mid-1970s. Narrated by Amir (David Ahmed) who is grown up, we are lead through his journey and memories from reference to his birth, family, childhood and into adulthood and his travels from Kabul to Pakistan to San Francisco, California.
Despite light-heartedness throughout, this story highlights the harrowing experiences of living and abuse/bullying that Muslims in Afghanistan were and some still are subjected to because of difference. Through the twists and turns, the moral of the piece is around the choice between being loyal to a friend (Hassan played by Jo Ben Ayed) – a Sunnis in this case to Shia, Amir – who is extremely loyal and would do anything for you “a thousand times over”, and gaining the unconditional love you yearn for from your father. The test of your courage to stand up for them against abuse is prominent as they stand up for you at every opportunity and this is even handed down to their offspring (Hassan’s son Sohrab also played by Jo Ben Ayed).
Amir and his father, Baba (played by Emilio Doorgasingh), have two servants: Ali and his son Hassan. We later discover exactly why Baba has a special affinity with them, getting defensive and defiant when Amir asks if he would ever consider replacing them. Amir’s question or request comes after he witnesses a horrific attack on Hassan by village bully Assef (Bhavin Bhatt) who has been taunting the boys for some time, along with his two sidekicks – we later discover that, as his life develops, he has taken the decision to continue his abuse by joining the Taliban, furthering his mission against Hazaras. Riddled with guilt that he ‘just ran’ and with the scenes bottled up inside, he attempts to reject and distance himself from his best friend and frames Hassan in order have him and his father sent away. A loyal friend, as proven, Hassan wrongly accepts blame and, despite forgiveness from their master and friend Baba, leave Kabul. This happens after Amir achieves acclaim from his father after winning the kite race that see hundreds of paper and glue-made toys fill the skies. Hassan is “the best kite runner”, always knowing exactly where they are going to fall in order to catch them. After the servants depart, Amir is set on making his father proud as “if I hadn’t seen you born, I wouldn’t believe you were mine” exclaims Baba.
Along the way we meet Rahmin Khan (Karl Seth) – later General Taheri and father to Soreya (Amiera Darwish) who becomes Amir’s wife when they move to America – who we find to know all about Amir’s struggles and journey, leading to a final request from him in memory of Hassan. We also meet a multitude of characters who help to tell the story, between providing a soundtrack with Wind Wand (combining the sound of the didgeridoo and the bullroarer using wood and rubber bands) and metal bowls (creating a slow crescendo, similar to the technique of running your finger around the edge of a glass of water) along with the talented on-stage musician, Tablas player Hanif Khan.
The set, designed by Barney George, is stunning. With revolving windmill-style blades used to split up scenes, with projections onto them, there is an authentic yet dark mood to the backdrop and minimal furniture other than up to four boxes, a chair, a cart and a wheelchair, all set on a large rug that is laid at the start.
Directed by Giles Croft, Matthew Spangler (author of the play)’s adaption is brilliant and true to the book, later a film, coupled with Jonathan Girling’s compositions.
There should be no excuse to miss this masterpiece that provides an insight into history and furthers the fact that not all Muslims are lead into evil acts. Until Saturday, find more details at HERE
Review By Christopher Oatway with additional material from Victoria Wilmott