Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Kite Runner at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 22 May, 2024
Updated on: 22 May, 2024

Competitive kite flying is a central theme to the play.

By Martin Giles

This is a powerful story forcefully told through excellent acting matched by polished stagecraft.

Kite Runner, directed by Giles Croft, is a stage adaptation by Matthew Spangler and based on Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 bestselling novel of the same name.

The first act of the play is set in Afghanistan and starts before the Shah was deposed in the 1970s. The pace is at first quite slow and some of the dialogue a little hard to follow, but the tempo soon quickens and draws the audience into the story; lead character Amir (Stuart Vincent) acts as narrator.

Major weaknesses and damaging human behavioural traits soon come to light. First, there is intertwined religious, race and class divisions and the connected prejudice shown by those surrounding the relationship between Amir (Stuart Vincent) and his servant yet closest friend Hassan (Yazdan Qafouri).

Amir (Stuart Vincent on the right) and his servant and yet closest friend Hassan (Yazdan Qafouri).

Next is cowardice and the consequence of lacking the physical courage to stand up to bullying. In the first encounter, Hassan armed with a catapult comes to the rescue of Amir but it leaves him with a guilt complex and feeling of inadequacy, especially when challenged by his father Baba (Dean Rahman) to take up more “manly” pursuits than his preferred story writing.

Even the pride of Baba at his son’s success at competitive kite flying, helped by Hassan, is spoilt by Amir’s residual guilt. But this is made far, far worse when the innocent Hassan is shockingly violated by sadistic tormentor Assef (Bavin Bhatt) and Amir does nothing to try and protect him.

Amir’s shame drives a wedge between him and Hassan. Amir cannot face his friend which results in him planting evidence of theft to have him dismissed. The ever-loyal Hassan lies and admits guilt rather than get his friend and master in trouble.

A guilty conscience continues to plague Amir even after his flight from his homeland with his father to the USA as refugees, after the Russian invasion. Can Amir find the strength of character necessary to find redemption and inner peace is the remaining question?

The story of Amir and the challenges he faces can only leave the hardest-hearted untouched. The play is also a lesson to us that in some parts of the world armed conflict creates extreme moral dilemmas and challenges most of us, fortunately, never have to face.

Stuart Vincent as Amir and Dean Rehman as Baba give the two stand-out performances among a comprehensively well-acted play

The whole production is well-directed and slick. And the whole company displays the confidence and assuredness that comes with their long run now in provincial theatres but formerly in the West End and Broadway.

For me, the outstanding performances were from Stuart Vincent as Amir and Dean Rehman as Baba.

Hanif Khan’s skilful musicianship helps to create the atmospheric backdrop.

The set was simple but clever as were the gravity-defying kites and the skilful use of music played by Hanif Khan which wonderfully transported us to the troubled land of Afghanistan.

Little wonder that the cast received a deserved standing ovation.

There were only a few empty seats at this first performance at the Yvonne Arnaud. My advice to those who appreciate the particular experience of live drama is to snap up any remaining tickets quickly.

The Kite Runner is on until Saturday, May 25. Click here to purchase tickets or ring: 01483 440000

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