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The Kite Runner: A remarkable stage production

| Theatre | 02/02/2017

The Kite Runner © Wyndhams Theatre
The Kite Runner © Wyndhams Theatre
Rating:

Written by Sandip Kana

Matthew Spangler’s stage production of Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel, The Kite Runner, makes an astonishing West End debut at Wyndham’s Theatre.  Its limited run lasts until 11th March 2017.

Given the popularity of Khaled Hosseini’s novel upon its release in 2003, and its highly successful movie adaptation four years later, it always seemed likely that The Kite Runner would become a stage production. However, given the complexity of the narrative, playwright Matthew Spangler faced numerous barriers and concerns that his efforts would fall short.  Those concerns are unfounded: what was undeniably an epic novel, scripted into an epic film, has been adapted into an epic play.

Anyone who has read The Kite Runner will appreciate the broad range of themes addressed in the text, from relationships between fathers, sons and best friends, to the plight of refugees and the transformation of a peaceful Afghanistan into a war-torn nation.  Above all though, it is a story about guilt, forgiveness and redemption.  With such diverse and heavy themes at play, Spangler could easily have strayed from the essence of the story.  However, thankfully the show manages to remain true to the novel’s remarkable spirit.

The Kite Runner © Robert Workman

The Kite Runner
© Robert Workman

The production encapsulates a great deal of emotion and drama, presented seamlessly through a series of intimate scenes. The story is told by Amir, an Afghan refugee living in California, who enjoyed a comfortable life with his widowed father despite being forced to flee Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion.

For much of the play, Amir reflects on an incident in his childhood that had great repercussions.  This story is intertwined with that of his best friend, Hassan, who is his complete opposite in virtually every respect.  Hassan is the expert kite runner, able to skilfully glide it through the skies.  Amir’s betrayal of him ultimately leads Amir to seek redemption and atonement for his mistake.

The story plays out on a simple yet thought-provoking stage, which set designer Barney George dominates with a massive fan-shaped-kite broken into different segments.  This adds to the striking ambiance created by table player Hanif Khan and a few impressive moments of kite shadow work in the background.

The Kite Runner © Robert Workman

The Kite Runner
© Robert Workman

One remarkable aspect of the production is the manner in which it presents the novel: a first-person narration through the eyes of Amir.  That brings added emotion and intensity to the show with numerous moments where a cold shudder can be felt going down your spine.

There are no child actors in the show.  Instead, Ben Turner’s narration sees him transform into a young boy – although perhaps not as convincingly as he may have liked.  Despite this, the ensemble cast blends neatly together to produce a thought-provoking insight into a world that for many is a living reality.

The Kite Runner elegantly presents a dark chapter in the history of Afghanistan, but ultimately this is a production about friendship and atonement – no matter the cost.

The Kite Runner is being performed at Wyndham’s Theatre until 11th March 2017.  For tickets, head here.

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