The Kite Runner, Bath Theatre Royal

THE history of Afghanistan is a microcosm of the Middle East – religious and tribal factionalism, uprisings, insurgencies, revolutions, invasions … and it’s all there in The Kite Runner, Matthew Spangler’s brilliant adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s epic first novel, on stage at Bath Theatre Royal until Saturday 11th November.

It’s a story that spans half the world – from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the west coast of the USA – and 40 years from the early 1970s to 2001.

It follows the lives of two boys, Amir (David Ahmad), born into a wealthy family, living with his father (his mother died when he was born) and Hassan (Jo Ben Ayed), the son of the family servant, Ali, members of the despised Hazara tribe.

Amir and Hassan have grown up together. They are best friends, yet Amir never thinks of the relationship in that way. He is a nervous boy, interested in poetry and writing stories. Hassan is loyal and brave, and much-loved by Amir’s father (Emilio Doorgasingh).

The two boys share a passion for Afghanistan’s sport of kite fighting – one of the less blood-thirsty games beloved of this fiercely competitive nation. The “kite runner” is the boy who runs to catch the fallen kite when the winner has cut its string – the strings are turned into razor-sharp fighting weapons with ground glass and glue. Hassan is the best kite-runner. Amir is a kite-flyer in the tradition of his father, who was the Kabul champion in his youth.

When the vicious Assef (Bhavin Bhatt) bullies and threatens Amir, it is the gentle and apparently servile Hassan who fights back. Hassan may walk on his tiptoes, bent forward against blows, but he has the heart of a lion.

Amir witnesses an act of extreme brutality by Assef but he says nothing. This single failure will become the determining factor in the next two decades of Amir’s life, long after he and his father have fled to the USA, escaping the Russian invaders of their homeland. Assef and his psychotic violence come back to haunt Amir, as he tries to atone for his catastrophic boyhood transgression.

It is a powerful story, told through beautiful, poetic dialogue and narration by Amir, with poignant and rhythmic music, composed by Jonathan Girling and played by percussionist Hanif Khan.

It was great to see the theatre full of young people for this production – a play that tells an important story about place, culture, loyalty and true courage.

The Kite Runner is on a national tour and will be back in our area for a week at Exeter’s Northcott Theatre from 21st November, and at Southampton Mayflower in April 2018.

Photographs by Betty Laura Zapata.


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