THE KITE RUNNER – Touring ★★★★

In Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland, Touring by Thom DibdinLeave a Comment

Touring – reviewed at King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Raw and powerful, the stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel The Kite Runner has lost none of its edge as it returns to the King’s for a week-long run, three years after it was last here.

It is still a rolling thunder of emotion, which draws a complex series of threads, running them  from Kabul in the 1970s where young Amira runs free, onto his exile in America following the Russian invasion and then to his return to the city in 2001, when the Taliban hold power.

Much of the fascination here is the complexity of those threads. In particular, Amir’s relationship with his playmate, Hassan, his father’s servant’s son and just a year younger than him.

Hassan is the kite runner of the title. A boy who runs after the falling kites defeated in the mass kite battles that rage over Kabul, their strings cut so they tumble down from on high. Hassan has an uncanny knack of being able to predict where they will fall.

All the heavy lifting of the production is done by David Ahmad, taking on the narrator’s voice as Amir, looking back on his Afghan childhood from America in 2001. Ahmad has a strong neutrality in his narration, but drops into a wheedling, high-pitched voice that crossers the borders of irritating when recreating his younger self.

But in the telling, under Giles Croft’s clear direction, the beginnings of those threads are cleverly drawn. Threads which will all be woven together at the end, only to be cut like the line of a fighting kite.

Here is the beauty of Kabul, the mansion Amir called home, the childhood innocence, the sense of irritation that his father looks so fondly on Hassan, the sociopathic neighbour, the complexity of Hassan and Amir coming from different castes, the relationship between master and servant, and the calamitous loss of innocence and ensuing, all-consuming remorse.

David Ahmad (Amir) and cast. Pic: Betty Laura Zapata

In many ways it is so well drawn because Croft and his designer Barney George do not resort to literal representation. Only the kites, that metaphor for innocence in both the child and the country, are given much of an on-stage reality, otherwise it is all in the telling and in the moments of personal reaction as each character drops briefly into the narrative.
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Which makes it tough for the rest of the large cast, having to create meaningful characters with the minimum of strokes. They achieve it, however. Jo Ben Ayed is bright-eyed loyalty as Hassan, Emilio Doorgasingh has a real presence to him as the father, Baba, and Ezra Faroque Khan a stoic dependability as Hassan’s father, Ali.

For all the lightness of touch, the violence and betrayal when they come, are even more hard to bare. Amir’s betrayal is clear to see from the outside as it is told, but the cleverness here is to portray it as it is seen from the inside, from Amir’s point of view and to understand his own disgust at himself.

There is much else to unpack here, too, in those winding threads. Notions of a culture fighting to survive in a different world, of young people coming to terms with their culture, of flight and of privilege, both unrecognised and abused.

Framed with Hanif Khan’s live tabla playing and lit to perfection by Charles Balfour, this is a hugely effective piece of theatre, which succeeds in leaving you squirming in your seat for a satisfying resolution, but knowing that what ever the chink of light it offers, this is tragedy – and its offer of redemption is too little and too late.

Running time two hours and 35 minutes (including one interval).
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Monday 9 – Saturday 14 October
Evenings: 7.30pm. Matinees Wed & Sat: 2.30pm
Tickets: www.edtheatres.com/kiterunner
Tour website:

The novel, film and playscript are available through Amazon. Click on the images for details:

The Kite Runner on tour 2017/18:

9 – 14 Oct 2017
Edinburgh
Kings Theatre
0131 529 6000
Book online

17 – 21 Oct 2017
Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000
Book online

30 Oct – 4 Nov 2017
Cheltenham
Everyman Theatre
01242 572573
Book online

6 – 11 Nov 2017
Bath
Theatre Royal
01225 448844
Book online

14 – 18 Nov 2017
Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650
Book online

21 – 25 Nov 2017
Exeter
Northcott Theatre
01392 493493
Book online

5 – 10 Feb 2018
Oxford
Playhouse
01865 305305
Book online

13 – 17 Feb 2018
Eastbourne
Devonshire Park Theatre
01323 412 000
Book online

20 – 24 Feb 2018
Crawley
The Hawth
01293 553636
Book online

5 – 10 Mar 2018
Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00
Book online

27 – 31 Mar 2018
Mold
Theatre Clwyd
01352 701521
Book online

3 – 7 Apr 2018
Hull
New Theatre
01482 300 300
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16 – 21 Apr 2018
Guildford
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
01483 44 00 00
Book online

24 – 28 Apr 2018
Southampton
The Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811
Book online

30 Apr – 5 May 2018
Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 11 21 21
Book online

15 – 19 May 2018
Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122
Book online

22 – 26 May 2018
Blackpool
Grand Theatre
01253 290 190
Book online

28 May – 2 Jun 2018
Buxton
Opera House
0845 127 2190
Book online

ENDS

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Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.
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Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on RssThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.

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