April 2024 at Nottingham Playhouse until April 20th.
5*****

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner is a tale of fathers and sons; the ties that bind them and the lies that separate them. Beginning in the mid 70s, the play is set against a backdrop of tumultuous Afghanistan’s recent history, the Soviet-Afghan War and later, the Afghan Civil War and rule of The Taliban.

Amir (Stuart Vincent) and Hassan (Yazdan Qafouri), along with their respective fathers grow up together in Kabul. Their close friendship is defined by summers of pomegranates and traditional myths, and winters of kite flying until a tournament victory is marred by a tragic and shameful attack; the repercussions of which will shape the paths of the two boys, and change their relationship irretrievably. The boys are portrayed expertly, by turns innocent and worldly. 

Amir fails to defend Hassan, who has always been most devoted and loyal; and his shame and guilt at his inaction lead him to do something extreme that will separate the two families forever. As the Taliban take control, Amir and his father must flee to San Francisco and adapt to an alien way of life in a different culture, but even across the thousands of miles separating him from his childhood friend, his betrayal of Hassan will ultimately catch up to him.

Will he be able to redeem himself, and take up the opportunity to become ‘good again?’

The sparse but evocative set design frames the action; including a well executed backdrop that is transformed by clever lighting, to give the feel of a city skyline, a garden fence and a book-lined study . This clever design gives each scene a sense of distinction, without distracting from the performances.

Stuart Vincent as Amir, (who is onstage almost continuously), tirelessly captures the complicated character, torn between his father’s expectations and his affection for his friend, as he learns what it is to be a man growing up in war-torn Kabul and wrestles with the pressures of class divides and family secrets.

Another notable highlight is talented drummer Hanif Khan, whose almost omnipresent tabla playing opens the play and underscores each scene, creating a sense of pace and rhythm throughout. Other traditional instruments are featured, a favourite being, the singing bowls played by the cast heighten the tension and emotions of some pivotal dramatic scenes.

Daphne Kouma excels as Soraya, Amir’s wife, whose own openness about her difficulties with coming to terms with her own rebellious past and dealing with her own father’s expectations help bring Amir to a place where he can seek redemption for his cowardice and lies. One of few female voices in this story that is male-dominated by its content, it’s a charismatic and characterful personification.

Yazdan Qafouri is well cast as Hassan, whose bravery and devotion is palpable from his first appearance, and his acting is especially masterful as Hassan’s Sohrab, in a tear-jerkingly emotional scene towards the closing of the play.

With a couple of twists and a perhaps unexpected return of a ‘villain’, this production is by parts harrowing and hopeful. Adapted from the novel by Matthew Spangler and ably directed by Giles Croft, The Kite Runner returns to the Nottingham Playhouse following acclaimed runs in the West End and on Broadway and is showing until 20th April 2024.

AL