Review: The Kite Runner, York Theatre Royal

29 Oct 2014 @ 11.17 am
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Amir and Hassan in The Kite Runner

  The Kite Runner
  York Theatre Royal, October 27

What happens when the sincere friendship between two young boys is polluted by racial tensions, peer pressure, emotional unbalances? The Kite Runner is a story about loss of innocence, guilt, forgiveness, and redemption.

The 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini sold more than 23 million copies, with theatre and cinema soon creating their own versions.

For the first time in Britain we have the chance to enjoy the adaptation by Matthew Spangler. Already very successful in the United States, the play benefits from a direct collaboration with the writer and insider access to the Afghan community in America.

After having been greeted by an excellent live performance by percussionist Hanif Khan, we get to know the main character Amir (Ben Turner) while he guides us through a 20 year flashback, straight to his childhood in Afghanistan during the early Seventies.

In spite of a pronounced religious and racial diversity, life in Afghanistan was at the time relatively peaceful. Young Amir is free to develop a close friendship with Hassan (Andrei Costin), even though he is the family servant’s son.

The two young guys complete each other in characters and inclinations, with Amir being introverted but imaginative and creative, and Hassan expressing his loyalty in playful and energetic outbursts.

Amir suffers from a difficult relationship with his father Baba (Emilio Doorgasingh) and struggles to adapt to a model of masculinity dominated by assertiveness and ambition.

In dealing with racial bullying against Hassan, Amir is not able to reciprocate the brave loyalty demonstrated by his friend.

He finally manages to win the kites race, the most popular hobby for young kids in Afghanistan before being banned by the Taliban regime, also thanks to Hassan’s help. It is an initiation rite that allows Amir to be finally recognised as a man by his father. But he is about to make a mistake that will haunt him for many years to come.

The play is assembled on multiple simultaneous layers. Layers of time, as Amir switches to and from his childhood, with glimpses of his inner life alternating with factual events.

Layers of space, in a stage that manages to accommodate San Francisco and Kabul, interiors and exteriors, thanks to the excellent work of designer Barney George enriched by gorgeous projection by William Simpson.

Thematic layers, with politics, cultures, religion working harmoniously in combination with personal stories and emotional dynamics.

Technically impeccable, sustained by a flawless performance by Ben Turner and thoughtfully directed by Giles Croft, The Kite Runner offers an immersive, almost cinematic experience to the audience, which absorbs the story with deep participation.

Not to be missed.

  The Kite Runner is at York Theatre Royal until Saturday, November 1

  For tickets go to the theatre website

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