Nottingham and Touring.
THE KITE RUNNER: adapted by Matthew Spangler.
Runs: 2h 55m: one interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 2nd September 2014.
Certainly one of the best Nottingham Playhouse productions of recent years.
Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of The Kite Runner, a success at the Nottingham Playhouse last year, is back. Set mainly in Afghanistan, and with all the narrative thrust and emotional power of one of those bulky Victorian novels, it’s concerned with deep friendship, class and ethnicity, betrayal, guilt and, finally, redemption.
There are riches to rags, hazardous journeys, exile, romantic love, angry fathers; and, near the end, a major revelation about the past involving forbidden sex across ethnic boundaries and illegitimacy. And with a functional stylised set and excellent mime it’s visually compelling. Back projection and lighting help to suggest changes of scene and emerging themes. Hanif Khan’s brilliantly played table helps to reinforce atmosphere and change of tempo.
Protagonist and narrator, Amir, a Pashtun, is acted man and boy by Ben Turner in a fine, wide-ranging and sensitive performance. Andrei Costin is excellent as his childhood friend Hassan, the Hazara son of his father’s servant. Amir’s widower father Baba (a superb performance from Emilio Doorgasingh) is a Scotch drinking pipe smoker, a no-nonsense man of means. The relationship between him and Amir the aesthete is crucial to the play, so it’s an important matter that, at the risk of his own life, Baba faces up to a Soviet soldier who’s about to rape a woman.
There’s also a telling bit of dramatic irony – at this point it’s the 1970s – when Baba hopes that the religious bigots, those “self-righteous monkeys”, never get to rule the country.
We’re given a rich variety of contrasting scenes to enjoy/be horrified by, including a realistic fight between Amir and Assef, the knuckle-duster wielding “sociopath”, actually a child rapist (Nicholas Karimi). It’s a sharp, and amusing, contrast with what’s gone before when father and son start a new life in laid back San Francisco. And the falling in love scene between Amir and Soraya (Lisa Zahra) is beautifully handled.
The play is a trifle over-dependent on narrative, but it offers a well-acted and hugely effective theatrical experience at many levels. Directed by Giles Croft, it’s certainly one of the best Nottingham Playhouse productions of recent years.
Kamal/Zaman: David Ahmad.
Wali: Bhavin Bhatt.
General Taheri/Raymond Andrews: Antony Bunsee.
Hassan/ Sohrab: Andrei Costin.
Baba: Emilio Doorgasingh.
Assef: Nicholas Karimi.
Ali/Farid: Ezra Khan.
Rahim Khan/Dr Schneider/ Omar Faisal: Nicholas Khan.
Amir: Ben Turner.
Soraya/Mrs Nguyen: Lisa Zahra.
Hanif Khan: Musician.
Director: Giles Croft.
Designer: Barney George.
Lighting Designer: Charles Balfour.
Projection Designer: William Simpson.
Composer: Jonathan Girling.
Sound Designer: Drew Baumohl.