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The Kite Runner at Wyndham's Theatre

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 12th Jan 2017 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

Films and plays based on books are usually a disappointment. So I didn’t hold much hope for Khaled Hosseini’s best seller’s transference to the stage.

But here is a production which is true to the book. And how they manage to transfer an enraptured audience to the Afghanistan of childhood friends Amir and Hassan with a minimal set and a dozen actors is down to the genius of adapter Matthew Spangler and director Giles Croft.

It’s a simple format: Amir, now married and living in San Francisco, looks back on his life from his childhood days in a relatively peaceful Kabul when kite flying was a competitive sport. It begins with him narrating his story, but it’s not long before Ben Turner, as Amir, becomes more than a mere narrator. Taking on the cloak of the child he once was, the former Casualty nurse transports us back in time, becoming that child in mannerisms, speech and attitude.

It’s an extraordinary performance, for not only does Turner become child, adolescent and adult, he also runs the gamut of emotions from childish wonder and fear to adult love, to guilt and despair as he carries with him a secret which fractured his friendship with his constant companion, his servant, and kite runner, Hassan.

Hassan is totally loyal to Amir and defends him whenever he needs him, never wavering, and Andrei Costin’s portrayal is most moving. I also like Emilio Doorgasingh’s emotional Baba and Nicholas Karimi certainly struts his stuff as the bullying Assef.

Alongside Amir’s story is that of Afghanistan, from the communist coup in 1978, the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the rise of the Taliban. Together, Hosseini and Spangler make the situation real and personal, giving the play an extra dimension, while Hanif Khan adds an extra treat, playing the tabla beautifully at the side of the stage. And it’s not without its humour. Christopher Biggins’ loud laughter from the first night auditorium truly endorsed that!

 

The Kite Runner is at Wyndham’s Theatre until March 11.

Box office: 0844 482 5120

www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk

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