Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

The Kite Runner

Adapted by Matthew Spangler from the novel by Khaled Hosseini
Nottingham Playhouse/Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse
The Lowry
03 October 2017 to 07 October 2017

Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 novel has sold more than 31m copies in 60 languages, was made into a hugely successful film and now there’s this stage version, originating a couple of years ago as a co-production between Nottingham and Liverpool Playhouses and arriving here via a couple of UK tours and a West End run.

It tells the rite of passage story of Amir (David Ahmad), a young boy from Kabul and his friend Hassan (Jo Ben Ayed) against a backdrop of events from the Soviet military intervention, the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.

The two boys grow up in the same household, Amir the son of an affluent widowed father, Hassan ostensibly the son of the father's trusted servant.

The boys play around the neighbourhood and fly kites but their lives follow very different paths after an act of childhood betrayal casts a guilty shadow over Amir's life.

As the political situation worsens, Amir and his father relocate to California and new, very different, lives and, in the final section of the narrative, Amir unexpectedly has opportunity for redemption and making amends for past wrongs.

As page-to-stage goes it’s a reasonably successful condensing of an epic novel.

It’s had highly favourable reviews while it has been out and about over the past couple of years and it isn’t difficult to see why – the performances are solid, there’s a cast of 13 doing their stuff, plus tabla player Hanif Khan providing evocative live music that punctuates and underscores, and it’s played on a simple but practical set of a curved ramp backed by sort-of skyscraper images with a giant kite-shaped structure that comes and goes to divide the space into more intimate areas. It’s also been directed with concern for the text.

The problem here however is that from an artistic standpoint it’s in the wrong theatre.

The coaches were lined up all around The Lowry and afterwards it was difficult to exit through the double parked parents’ cars, so it’s obviously a set text of some kind, which is no doubt why it needs the seats to put the young bums on.

But in the Lyric’s 2,000-ish auditorium the production itself is having difficulty communicating with the intensity the piece demands. Every play here needs miking, this isn’t and with over-amplified instrumentals it just emphasises the lack of volume on the vocals.

The cast are coping well and the piece still comes across as a potent drama but either more technical help or a smaller theatre is what's really needed.

Reviewer: Alan Hulme


Comment by Diana Stenson

I have read the book, saw the film and now this production and am still unsure why the tale of a rich spoilt young boy who is both deceitful and cowardly could be such a successful theme - but it is.

David Ahmad is the convincing young boy Amid who enhances the necessary childlike voice and subsequent maturity. His young pal and talented "kite runner" Hassan (Jo Ben Ayed) portrays the subservient manner and complete devotion which is to become his cruel undoing and heart  of the tale.

The accompanying "tabla drums" are perfect for the Afghan atmosphere but occasionally drown essential dialogue. However as Alan points out the concern for audience concentration is size of the theatrical space here.

There was an audible "rustling" from the audience towards the finale - this hard working talented cast deserve a smaller venue!