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the kite runner artwork

all about theatre four star review

The Kite Runner, a stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's internationally bestselling novel of the same name, was skillfully adapted for the stage by Matthew Spangler. It made its debut at the San Jose Repertory Theatre in 2009, receiving critical acclaim. Following its success, a Broadway production opened at the Hayes Theatre in 2022, garnering a wide range of reviews. The play also had a successful run at the Wyndham's Theatre in the West End from December 2016 to March 2017. Due to popular demand, it returned to the West End at the Playhouse Theatre in June 2017 for another limited run. Now, in 2024, the play is set to embark on a UK Tour, promising to bring this captivating story to audiences across the country, I was lucky enough to be invited to review the play at it's stop at the Lowry in Salford.

The kite runner production photo

The play opens in 1970's Afghanistan, focusing on the life of Amir, a young man from a wealthy Pashtun family. It delves into his complex friendship with Hassan, a Hazara servant and the son of Ali, Amir's father's servant. As they grow up together, their bond is strengthened through kite running competitions. Hassan excels as a "kite runner" for Amir, displaying an uncanny ability to predict the kite's landing spot without seeing it. Both boys share the absence of a mother, and Amir's father, whom he fondly refers to as Baba, demonstrates love and care for both boys. However, Baba's treatment of Hassan and Amir differs, as he lavishes equal gifts on both, much to Amir's chagrin. Conversely, Baba is often critical of Amir, perceiving him as weak and lacking in courage, and showing little interest in Amir's writing passion.

During one of their playful outings, Amir and Hassan encounter Assef, an older boy who ridicules Amir for associating with a Hazara. This encounter takes a dark turn when Assef later attempts to attack Amir with brass knuckles. In a courageous act of defense, Hassan intervenes, wielding his slingshot and threatening to harm Assef. Assef retreats, but not without vowing to seek revenge in the future.

Amir and Hassan enthusiastically participate in the local kite-fighting tournament, with Amir emerging as the victor, finally earning the admiration of his father, Baba. As the tournament wraps up, Hassan chases after the last cut kite, a prized symbol of victory. Tragically, in an alleyway, Hassan crosses paths with the menacing Assef, who demands the kite. When Hassan refuses, Assef viciously assaults him, leaving Amir, a horrified witness, paralyzed by fear and guilt. Overwhelmed by shame and the fear of disappointing his father, Amir flees the scene, unable to come to Hassan's aid.

The kite runner production photo

Consumed by guilt and haunted by his cowardice, Amir distances himself from Hassan, wishing him out of his life. In a desperate attempt to drive Hassan away, Amir falsely accuses him of theft, hoping his father will force Hassan to leave. However, to Amir's surprise, Baba forgives Hassan and wants him to stay. Despite this, Hassan and his father, Ali, depart, as Hassan shares the truth of his ordeal with Ali. Amir may have escaped the immediate consequences of his betrayal, but he remains burdened by guilt and haunted by the memory of Hassan's suffering.

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Amir and his father, Baba, flee to the United States to escape the turmoil in their homeland. Despite their new life, the guilt of abandoning their loyal friend and servant, Hassan, continues to haunt Amir. Years later, Amir receives a life-changing call from Rahim Khan, an old family friend, who urges him to return to Kabul. Rahim Khan unveils long-held secrets about Hassan’s tragic fate and pleads with Amir to find and rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab, who is in desperate need of help. Reluctantly, Amir returns to a Taliban-controlled Kabul, a city fraught with danger and haunting memories. As he navigates the treacherous landscape, Amir is confronted with overwhelming guilt and the opportunity for redemption. He must come to terms with his past and seek forgiveness while finding a way to make amends for the mistakes of his youth.

The kite runner production photo

The show's meticulous design successfully immerses the audience in the contrasting atmospheres of Afghanistan and the USA. Every aspect, from the set and lighting to the projection and sound design, works in harmony to establish the distinct settings. The cozy and vibrant culture of Afghanistan is juxtaposed with the more modern and sleek USA, and the use of sound and lighting effectively communicates this cultural contrast. The stage design, while simple, is incredibly impactful, with projected and moving images elevating the emotional tone of each scene. The costumes, adorned with intricate details, contribute to building an authentic Afghan environment, showcasing the collaborative effort of the creative team.

The tabla, a traditional Indian percussion instrument, is skillfully played by the highly talented musician Hansif Khan to underscore the performance. Through a carefully crafted sequence and series of taals (rhythmic patterns), the music builds tension, creating a captivating atmosphere. This tension is punctuated by sudden stops, strategically emphasizing and highlighting key scenes and phrases, adding depth and emotion to the overall performance.

The kite runner production photo

The entire cast of this production was truly outstanding, but I was particularly moved by the performances of Stuart Vincent as Amir and Yazdan Qafouri as Hassan/Sohrab.

Stuart Vincent's portrayal of Amir is nothing short of captivating, as he leads the cast in bringing this complex character to life. His performance skilfully captures the multifaceted nature of Amir, showcasing his passionate and, at times, unlikable traits with depth and nuance. Vincent's portrayal is truly spellbinding, as he demonstrates an exceptional understanding of the character, allowing him to effectively convey a wide range of emotions throughout the production. His complete immersion in the role is evident, as he fearlessly displays both inhibition and vulnerability, adding layers of depth and authenticity to his portrayal that resonate with the audience.

 Yazdan Qafouri delivered a truly remarkable performance as Hassan/Sohrab, showcasing an unparalleled level of dedication to the role. Qafouri's approach to the character emanated humility, drawing the audience into his emotional journey. His transformation from Hassan to Sohrab was portrayed with extraordinary depth and nuance, captivating viewers with the character's poignant evolution. Qafouri's depiction of Sohrab's suffering was deeply moving, marked by flawless and compelling character choices that resonated with the audience.

The kite runner production photo

I was deeply moved and captivated by "The Kite Runner." The narrative is not only powerful, heart-wrenching, and thought-provoking, but it also delves into the complex and nuanced dynamics of father-son relationships. Moreover, the play beautifully portrays the enduring impact of childhood friendships and the profound emotional journey towards forgiveness and healing. It's a poignant story that resonates with the moral dilemmas faced by the characters, their relentless quest for redemption, and the profound and lasting impact of their actions on the trajectory of their lives.

The Kite Runner is on at The Lowry until Saturday 11th May 2024, you can purchase tickets by clicking on the button below.

If you would like more information about the show and see where it will be touring to please click the button below for the show's official website.

Photo Credit - Barry Rivett for Hotshot Photography

*Our tickets for this show were kindly gifted in exchange for an honest review


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