THE KITE RUNNER
by Matthew Spangler
based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini
Wyndham’s Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DA to 11 March 2017.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Mat Thur & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 40 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 5120.
Review: William Russell 10 January.
Workmanlike but far from heart breaking or epic in scale. This is a well staged and well performed but somehow ultimately pretty pointless evening which, although it distils the essence of Khaled Hoseini’s famous novel efficiently enough, proves no substitute for reading the book.
Matthew Spangler’s play adds nothing to the novel and in a sense diminishes the experience gained from reading it. If one wants to dramatise a novel, to change it in to something else – whether a play or a film – there has to be good reason for doing so. Here, good reason is there none although director Giles Croft has kept an essentially episodic affair moving briskly along.
The book starts in Afghanistan in the 1970s and tells how Amir, a Pashtun boy betrays his best friend Hassan son of one of his father’s servants who is a Hazuri. Hassan is the kite runner of the title, the boy who collects the kite Hassan has been flying as part of a local sporting event. In due course the two lose contact because after the Russians invade, Amir and his father go in to exile ending up in San Francisco, and the Taliban take over. It is a complicated narrative and Spengler’s version requires Amir to narrate it, and as well a splaying his adult self to be the boy of the 1970s.
Ben Turner is fine as the adult Amir, but far less successful when it comes to turning himself into the boy Amir. One is always conscious of the actor working at his part rather than simply watching a teenager.
The two boys fall foul of some bullies one of whom rapes Hassan. Amir does nothing to stop the rape and lives with his guilt through the tribulations that follow. But what works powerfully on the page and on film is less successful in the theatre, although director Giles Croft does his best to keep the story moving. Turner as the adult Amir undeniably holds the stage throughout although one gets rather tired of his somewhat monotonous delivery in a distinctly peculiar American accent as the adult Amir. He gets strong support from Emilio Doorgasingh as his father Baba and Lisa Zahra as the liberated Pashtun girl he marries. Andrei Costin as Hassan and Hassan’s son Sohrab in the latter stages of the tale is sweetly effective and there is a clever set from Barney George, a line of posts silhouetted against the sky which become pretty well what the moment demands. But it does not move the heart as film and novel did, and in the end is little more than a competently done talking book at bedtime with occasional scenes performed by actors.
Kamal.Zaman: David Ahmad.
Wali/Doctor: Bhavin Bhatt.
General Taheri/Raymond Andrews: Antony Bunsee.
Hassan/Dohrab: Andrei Costin.
Baba: Emilio Doorgasingh.
Assef: Nicholas Karimi.
Ensemble: Natasha Karp.
Ali/Farid: Ezra Faroque Khan.
Tabla Player: Hanif Khan.
Rahim Kharv/ Dr Schneider/Omar Faisil: Nicholas Khan/.
Ensemble: Johndeep More.
Amir: Ben Turner.
Saraya/ Mrs Nguyem: Lisa Zahra.
Designer: Barney Croft.
Lighting Designer: Charles Balfour.
Projection Designer: William Simpson.
Composer & Musical Director: Jonathan Girling.
Sound Designer: Drew Baumohi.
Movement Director: Kitty Winter.
Fight Director: Philip d’Orleans.