The Kite Runner – Gaiety Theatre – Review by Frank L
Until June 9th 2018
Khaled Hosseini’s best selling 2003 novel charts the story of two boys born in Kabul, Afghanistan in the nineteen sixties. Notwithstanding its turbulent nineteenth century history, the country had been comparatively peaceful since the end of the first world war. The story is told by Amir (Raj Ghatak), who was one of the two boys but is now in early middle age. He has fled with his father Baba (Gary Pillai) from Afghanistan and now lives in San Francisco as a refugee. He remembers his childhood friend Hassan (Jo Ben Ayed), the son of his father’s faithful servant Ali (Rez Kabir) when they were kids and passed their time in the then common practice of kite flying. The story of their lives is told against the background of the catastrophic political changes which Afghanistan has endured during Amir’s relatively short life. Those changes began in 1973. Unfortunately for Afghanistan it then became a cockpit for various indigenous and foreign ideologies. The story includes the Russian invasion of 1979, the rise of the Taliban and the consequences of 9/11 in 2001. But the lives of Amir and Hassan are more intertwined than Amir as a boy initially realised and as a result he returns in middle age to Afghanistan in an attempt to find the son of Hassan.
The panorama covered by the story is vast so any stage adaptation necessarily has to take liberties. The childhood pranks of Amir and Hassan are played by them as grown men but Raj Ghatak’s storytelling makes this far from simple task credible.
When the members of the audience are taking their seats, they are greeted by Hanif Khan seated on the right hand side of the stage who plays on the traditional tabla drum. The intricate rhythms of his hands on the drums transport the audience into a different world before the performance begins. He sits on stage throughout and his drumming adds intensity to the story being told. This sophisticated drumming also shows another side to Afghanistan before its late twentieth century troubles began.
Given that Amir and Hassan come from polar opposites on the social scale, their stories were always going to be different but in addition they have a personal bond outside boyhood friendship. Rah Ghatak plays Amir but he also acts as the narrator. It is a device that works and permits parts of the story which would be difficult to be portrayed to be imagined. It also permits the various twists and turns of the plot to be kept moving at a pretty rapid pace.
Afghanistan is rarely nowadays a good news story when it makes the headlines. This play shows that behind those stories there are humans who have the same sort of domestic problems that everyone else may endure. These problems have been greatly exacerbated and intensified by the meddling of various outside forces in Afghanistan. The consequences are there to be seen in this saga. This cleverly constructed play keeps your attention as it reveals how this meddling wrecked individual lives.
Adapted by Matthew Spangler
Based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini
Directed by Giles Croft