The Kite Runner, Bath Theatre Royal

KABUL-born Khaled Hosseini, on whose debut book this play is based, left Afghanistan with his family and arrived in the USA, via Iran and France, unable to speak a word of English. Educated in California, he went on to practise medicine for ten years before producing his first novel, The Kite Runner. A naturalised American citizen, Khaled observed the dramatic changes in his homeland from afar, until he made a return to Kabul aged 38 to see the vast changes in the country, which had been ravaged by years of civil war.

There are autobiographical echoes in the story of Amir, a well-to-do, spoiled child who, rather than face the truth, drives his best friend away into exile. This is a fate that will shortly overtake Amir and his widowed father, Baba, as they start to rebuild their lives in California. As he does so, he not only realises and regrets the mistakes made as a child, but also – while embracing the American way of life – appreciates his birth roots and the debts owed to those left behind.

Khaled Hosseini is now a Goodwill envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees.

The various sides of Amir, from carefree child to anxious lover and determined rescuer, are contained in Stuart Vincent’s performance. With the additional commitment to being narrator, he virtually never leaves the stage throughout the play.

We have to wait for the final scenes for Amir to redeem the wrongs of his past, first as a child to Yazdan Qafouri’s almost too-good-to-be-true best friend Hassan, then in youth, as a typical teenager upsetting and thwarting the will of his dignified father Baba (Dean Rehman), and later as a young adult discovering, as his father dies, the strength to challenge the views of reactionary ex-General Taheri (Ian Abeysekera), and demand the hand of his feisty daughter, Soraya (Daphne Kouma).

It is the strength gained through his marriage to Soraya, highlighting the opportunities for an educated woman in America compared to those in religiously dominated Afghanistan, that sends Amir back to his homeland to recover the executed Hassan’s son Sohrab (also Yazdan Qafouri) and confront Assef, the bully of his childhood, now Taiban officer (played with relish by Bhavin Bhatt).

Most of the brutality, viciousness and devastation is suggested, or heard off-stage, but it is as frightening or upsetting as if it was being played out before our eyes.

Tiran Aakel, as Assef’s lame father, and Christopher Glover, as Rahim Khan, Baba’s true friend and confidant to Amir, paint two idealised characters. Hanif Khan provides atmospheric musical accompaniment throughout, as well as creating a lovely pre-show feeling as the audience assembles.

Californian-based playwright Matthew Spangler produces an American-based view of the recent history of this once-prosperous, now war-torn country, but it is one that fits well with the story’s true-to-life characters.


Photographs by Barry Rivett for Hotshot Photography

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