Hull New Theatre – until 7th April 2018. Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams
Riveting, emotional, intense, thought provoking and powerful, The Kite Runner is quite simply stunning.
Matthew Spangler’s clever adaption of the novel by Khaled Hosseini soars and dips taking us high and oh so low. The story is told, in a series of flashbacks, by Amir (Raj Ghatak) and revolves around his friendship with Hassan (Jo Ben Ayed) in the Kabul of the early 1970’s. This is not the Kabul we know today but a place of calm and tranquility, where Amir is leading a privileged life and is aware of his superiority as a Pashtun. The boys’ friendship is by its very nature unequal and this leads ultimately to betrayal and loss of innocence whilst Hassan remains unstintingly loyal to Amir. Amir’s relationship with his Father Baba (Gary Pillai) is also difficult as he wants a son who will be a real man, not one who reads and writes poetry.
The stage set is sparse but very clever, with the lighting taking us to dark places and the curve to the stage enabling the boys to whoop and play. Jonathan Girling’s clever use of music throughout enhances the mood, never being intrusive, adding to suspense; at times it gave me goose bumps. A special mention should go to Hanif Khan the tabla player, who was on stage throughout the production, and was superb.
Raj Ghatak as Amir was outstanding and held the entire piece together, being on stage throughout. He effortlessly became a child again playing and chasing and would then switch back to being an American adult in a second. His emotions were so clear to see and his use of body language often provided the narrative and the heartbreak.
Jo Ben Ayed’s Hassan was beautiful in its portrayal of innocence and unswerving loyalty. Again his body language was used to stunning effect and it was easy to see who had the upper hand in his relationship with Amir.
Gary Pillai as Baba aged before us as he left his life in Afghanistan and had to endure life as a refugee in San Fransico. His pride however was on show all the way through.
This is a production that will leave you on the edge of your seat, at times you will hold your breath and if you are like me it will make you cry. It does not shy away from the reality of the brutality of life in Afgahnistan. There is of course a particularly evil character Aseef (Soroosh Lavasini), who is a sociopath according to Amir. It is safe to say the Soroosh Lavasini’s Aseef really was the stuff of nightmares, initially making you feel he was just a bit of a bully and then sinking to brutality. His laugh will stay with me for a long time.
At the interval there was absolute silence until the lights went up and the chatter around me as I left the theatre was of how good this production is. Go and see it, you might feel drained at the end of it but you will have had one of the best nights out at the theatre.