Photo: Barry Rivett for Hotshot Photography

Seeing staged or filmed adaptations of a much loved book can be so terribly disappointing. I read The Kite Runner the year it was published and was  immediately gripped by the story and moved by the horrors and sadness portrayed. Had you asked me at that time if I could foresee it becoming a stage play I would have doubted it possible, so wide is Khaled Hosseini’s canvas, so dark the palette of emotions that it would seem impossible. In 2007 a film was released, it was good but it lacked the emotive qualities of the book, becoming just a ‘movie’.

A few years on and I first saw Matthew Spangler’s stage adaptation, a collaboration made with the author who became his friend. The resulting work is one of the best stage adaptations that I have ever had the privilege of seeing.

The simple staging, time and place created deftly by designer Barney George and lit by Charles Balfour with projections by William Simpson is seamless, moving us from Khabul to San Francisco with ease, from the comfort of privilege to the horror of a country torn apart by religious warmongers, the whole is richly achieved. The music and soundscape add to the immersive experience and the presence of tabla playing musician Hanif Khan brings that soundscape alive.

Photo: Barry Rivett for Hotshot Photography

All this before even one mention of a cast member, a sure indication that this production is beautifully rounded. At the centre of the story is Amir, played with such skill by Stuart Vincent, the conflicted child growing to the further conflicted adult as the story unfolds. There is a captivating innocence to his portrayal that remains throughout to only reveal a maturity in the closing scenes.

His servant and childhood friend Hassan has a deeper innocence and simplicity, an unswerving sense of loyalty and trust, a trust that will eventually become the catalyst that sends their lives spiralling out of control. Yazdan Qafouri is quietly magnificent in the role, it’s a gentle and almost understated performance but essentially so.

Photo: Barry Rivett for Hotshot Photography

Dean Rehman is Baba, the father of Amir, a successful business man, arrogant and conflicted and seemingly the unloving parent. Again an extraordinarily moving performance as the character plummets from riches to poverty and from strength to infirmity. Seldom will you see a picture of ageing played this convincingly on the live stage.

The darkest character is Assef, a bully and sexual predator whose presence throughout is deeply troubling. It would be easy for this role to drift into almost pantomime cliche, by Bhavin Bhatt delivers it with restraint and unsettling clarity.

At a time when religious war is once again in the forefront of world news this stunning production could not be more poignant. There are moments of delicate humour but at the heart of this dramatisation there is no getting away from the message that war is evil, whether that are is global or familial, and wars driven by religion and social injustice the most evil of all.

Andrew Kay

11 June

Theatre Royal Brighton


Leave a Comment

Related Articles