Yvonne Arnaud Theatre – until 21 April 2018
Reviewed by Heather Chalkley
Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of the book allowed this phenomenally talented company to weave a clear and intricate story line. The complex relationship between father and son was centre stage, against the back drop of an evolving Afghanistan radicalisation and melting pot of American multiculturalism.
Hanif Khan welcomed us into the opening night with his adept tabla playing, setting the tone and fast pace from the start. Taal rhythms were used to accentuate key moments throughout the play.
Barney George’s cleverly devised staging, using fan like sails as projection screens, gave the illusion of open space and freedom; safe, secluded Kabul gardens; comfortable western homes and Afghani dark alleys. The stage was stripped back, with no distractions, focusing attention intensely on the cast.
Raj Ghatak as Amir, the narrator and main character, held your attention, delivering a range of emotions in carefully orchestrated measures. He evoked empathy, sympathy, disgust, joy and heartache from his audience, earning long and loud applause.
Jo Ben Ayed gave a beautiful portrayal firstly of Hassan, Kite Runner and the humble servant child, immediately conveying the unconditional love for Amir his childhood friend and servant. Then as the son and nephew Sohrab: broken, vulnerable and desperate.
Soroosh Lavasini as Assef gave a compelling performance, mixing the playground bully with ingrained xenophobia into a toxic cocktail that was verging on madness. The fear of the Taliban was real and present through his character.
Director Giles Croft and his team crafted fluidity and unity into the production. The Company was like poetry in motion, moving props and providing sound effects naturally like it was an everyday occurrence. The use of Tibetan Singing Bowls to increase tension and Schwirrbogen to replicate soaring winds was inspired. In the more disturbing scenes he gave just enough for you to know what is happening and to apply your own imagination.
This not a play for the faint-hearted. I am sure the author Khaled Hosseini himself would be totally absorbed once again by his own story. It brings the book to life in a way that delivers human love and sacrifice right into your lap. I thoroughly recommend it for those who are not afraid to experience and share a whirlwind of emotions with fellow watchers.