Adapting a novel for the stage is a difficult task: a task that Matthew Spangler decided to take on with Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Based around the unlikely friendship between two young boys in 1970s Kabul, Afghanistan; The Kite Runner shows how one event slowly has a ripple effect on the rest of your life.
As you enter Richmond Theatre, you’re instantly immersed into the character’s world – as there is a live tabla player on stage (Hanif Khan). The cleverness of Barney George’s design and William Simpson’s projection design help further absorb you into the world of Afghanistan and its culture. Likewise, the innovative sound design by Drew Baumohl helps to initiate the full experience from the get go, with the kite competition being a particular highlight in Baumohl’s design.
David Ahmad as Amir is simply excellent; playing Amir from childhood to adulthood and carrying the show through, replicating Amir’s first person narration from the novel. Ahmad leads the rest of the cast, who compliment his performance. Dean Rehman (Baba) and Bhavin Bhatt (Assef) are particular standouts, as their characters evolve over the timeframe of the story. Certain actors multi-role, with Tiran Aakel fluidly executing moving between the characters of Ali and Farid.
For such a complex novel, the storyline is adapted for stage better than it was for film. The sensitive aspects of the novel are depicted with delicacy, being told through narration rather than graphically showcasing it. Likewise, the first person narration aids in creating empathy for Amir, even when he is problematic as a character.
The Kite Runner is a timeless story; exploring the themes of friendship, family, culture, guilt through the lense of toxic masculinity. The stage adaptation is provocatively powerful, with an ensemble cast that feed off each other to bring Khaled Hosseini’s story fully to life.