Birmingham and London
A Thousand Splendid Suns, novel by Khaled Hosseini, adapted by Ursula Rani Sarma.
Runs: 2h 20, 1 interval. B’ham Rep till 18 May 2019, then London
Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455
Review: Rod Dungate, 8 May 2019
A Thousand Splendid Suns is Khaled Hosseini’s follow up novel to his much celebrated Kite Runner. This adaptation, from the US, receives its UK premiere production at Birmingham Rep. This adaptation has flow and impact, which the Kite Runner adaptation lacked, and in a strong production makes for an engrossing event.
Thousand Suns, like its predecessor, is set in Afghanistan during the internal struggle with the Taliban. It is a terribly bleak tale, there is the glimmer of a happy ending, but that brings little comfort.
The narrative centres around feisty young Laila, at the outset of the story, 15 years old. She alone among her family survives a shell attack, and due to her circumstances, marries much older Rasheed; she is a second wife as Rasheed also has his first wife Mariam. The tale is viewed through Laila’s eyes. And her world is one in which there is little comfort for women, it is a life of total subjection, drudgery, and violence from a vile and abusive husband.
The women are taught there is little point in education for them, they need learn only one thing – endure.
Sujaya Dasgupta (Laila) and Amina Zia (Mariam) both give strong and warm performances. With the characters live in front of us, we are emotionally drawn into their awful world. We can see Rasheed only as a monster, though intellectually we may understand he is a product of his surroundings. We can see the regime only as a cultural-religious monster, but we must remember, it is a distorted version of Islam.
There is light flickering in all this darkness. The strong bond between the two women. The orphanage which bravely continues to educate its girls (not all men are monsters). The love between Laila and her childhood sweetheart which comes into fruition at the end.
This is a terrific ensemble company. And Roxana Silbert, whose final production at the Rep this is, has orchestrated the forces well, enabling the team to confront head-on the issues the novel and the adaptation rasie. I am reminded of John Donnne’s notion that, as human beings, we are all connected; this play is a powerful reminder that it is our sisters (and on other occasions brothers, too) who suffer under these appalling regimes.
Tariq/ Wakil / Driver / Ensemble: Waleed Akhtar
Rasheed: Pal Aron
Laila: Sujaya Dasgupta
Jalil Abdul / Sharif / Interrogator / Ensemble: Munir Khairdin
Babi / Mullha Faizullah / Zama / Militiaman / Ensemble: Naveed Khan
Zalmai / Afsoon / Girl / Wakil’s Wife / Ensemble: Mollie Lambert
Young Mariam / Aziza / Nurse / Ensemble: Shala Nyx
Nana / Fariba / Doctor / Ensemble: Lisa Zahra
Mariam: Amina Zia
Director: Roxana Silbert
Designer: Ana Inés Jabares- Pita
Lighting Designer: Simon Bond
Co-Composer: Mahmood Kamen
Co-Composer and Sound Designer: David Price
Movement Director: Lucy Cullingford
Fight Director: Terry King
Magic Consultant: Ben Hart
Voice Director: Stephen Kemble
Associate Director: Madeleine Kludje