dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
A friendship betrayed
Adapting Khaled Hosseini's best-seller The Kite Runner is an ambitious task fraught with difficulties. To begin with the story takes place over a huge swathe of time and across the continents taking in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States of America. Then we have its subject matter – the tale of two boys and the betrayal of their friendship which leads to a life of guilt and a final act of atonement.
Throw into this mix Afghanistan under the monarch, a coup, the Russian invasion and the Taliban and the picture becomes even more complex. It could be a mishmash but Matthew Spangler's adaptation is successful because it keeps at its heart the voice of the narrator. Just as in Hosseini's book, the lead character Amir tells his own story and the stories of those around him. And in doing so, the production keeps a narrative flow which quickly draws the audience in.
Ben Turner as Amir and Andrei Costin as Hassan. Photo: Robert Day
Directed by Giles Croft, the production does not shy away from the tougher parts of Hosseini's tale – we are treated to full details of its less pleasant moments. But it also ensures we share in Amir's journey, learning, as he learns, that it is possible to make reparations by 'being good again'.
Ben Turner wins your heart as Amir. While we are shocked at his actions we also understand the terrible feelings of guilt which lead him into even more betrayals. And when he tries to make atonement we are all willing him on. Andrei Costin, taking the roles of both Hassan, Amir's childhood friend, and Hassan's son Sohrab, never gets to grow up in the production but plays both boys convincingly.
Andrei Costin as Hassan and Ben Turner as Amir. Photo: Robert Day
Emilio Doorgasingh is wonderful as Amir's father. Here is a man who doesn't know how to relate to his son, whose sense of justice is so strong he will risk his life for a woman he does not know and yet, who is capable of the greatest betrayal. Nicholas Karimi as the 'sociopath' Assef does sometimes tip over into pantomime baddy – which risks him losing that sense of menace which is so strong in Hosseini's novel.
Designer Barney George keeps the staging simple with a giant carpet which changes design depending on whether we are in the street or the home and a skyscraper background when we cross the Atlantic. Live music performed by Hanif Khan is also a welcome addition.
Created by Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse in 2007 and revived here at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, The Kite Runner is not always easy watching but it does evoke strong responses. While it shocks, it also reveals elements of human nature which we all recognise. And it also has its moments of beauty as Amir shares his passion for kite flying and his growing love for fellow Afghani exile Soraya, played by Lisa Zahra. With the story having come full circle, we have all been on a journey of redemption.