Tag Archives: Khaled Hosseini

Splendid!

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS

The REP, Birmingham, Thursday 9th May, 2019

 

Khaled Hosseini’s novel comes to the stage in this engrossing adaptation by Ursula Rani Sarma.  Set in Afghanistan after the Soviets left, this is the story of two women who are married to the same man.  Sharing hardship and mistreatment, the two women form a bond that lasts for years, leading to one of them making the ultimate sacrifice.  It’s a gripping tale, superbly told.  Sarma’s script brings out humour and warmth in horrendous circumstances as bombs drop on Kabul and the Taliban takes control.

The production hinges on the central performances of the two women.  Sujaya Dasgupta is instantly appealing as young Laila, driven by tragedy to marry the man who rescues her from the rubble of her family home.  Laila is primarily a victim of circumstance and oppression, but she has an indomitable spirit.  Dasgupta brings her to life without sentimentality; we are with her all the way.  Also great is Amina Zia as the initially resentful Mariam, regarding Laila as a threat but warming to her as events unfold.

Pal Aron is perfectly villainous as the tyrannical Rasheed, while Waleed Akhtar cuts a sympathetic figure as Tariq, Laila’s young love.  We meet Tariq in flashbacks, with Akhtar and Dasgupta displaying youthful vigour and innocence.  There is solid support from Shala Byx as Aziza and Munir Khairdin in a range of roles.

Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s set is a rocky landscape, serving as all the story’s locations – the characters are forever stuck between rocks and hard places!

This is a fitting swan song for the REP’s artistic director, Roxana Silbert, before she leaves Birmingham for pastures new.  Thoroughly involving, this is an excellent piece of storytelling, casting light onto a part of the world we don’t hear much about.  The play emphasises the humanity of the characters – of all the characters, even the loathsome Rasheed! – and we see just how ordinary and relatable they are, even in the face of extreme events.  The story could be played out in other countries (Syria, for example) to remind us that behind the statistics and the headlines, these are real people’s lives and experiences.

A wonderful piece of theatre, powerful, pertinent and captivating.  Splendid, in fact.

splendid

Sujaya Dasgupta as Laila and Amina Zia as Mariam (Photo: Pamela Raith)

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Strings Attached

THE KITE RUNNER

The REP, Birmingham, Monday 22nd September, 2014

Playwright Matthew Spangler’s excellent adaptation of the bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini is an electrifying piece of storytelling. Directed by Giles Croft, this is the story of two Afghan boys, one the servant to the other, who grow up together in Kabul. The actors Ben Turner and Andrei Costin run around like kids, shooting at each other with their fingers in a very Blood Brothers kind of way – except, having had the same wet nurse, these two are more like Breast-milk Brothers until events, personal and political conspire to tear them apart.

Turner narrates as Amir and is never short of captivating. Amir makes mistakes and has to live with the consequences of those mistakes; Turner is so engaging, Amir’s motivation is always understandable. His guilt-ridden rejection of his friend is perfectly human.

Amir’s dad Baba (Emilio Doorgasingh) is a domineering figure – this is a father/son tale as much as one of friendship and betrayal. Doorgasingh brings out the different facets of this character – there is nobility, vulnerability and love in this man. The rest of the ensemble is also very strong. Nicholas Karimi’s sociopath Assef grows from scary bully to scary warlord. Antony Bunsee brings dignity as General Taheri – it all plays out on an evocative set by Barney George, where the backdrop suggests both fence posts and skyscrapers. Charles Balfour’s lighting signifies changes of time, place and mood, with projections by William Simpson suggesting Afghani and/or Muslim designs, as well as kites and sky.  A musician (Hanif Khan) remains onstage throughout, providing a percussive soundtrack to the action and the emotional life of the tale.

Giles Croft choreographs his cast, blending naturalistic and non-naturalistic techniques to the service of the story. But it is the intensity and appeal of the narrator that keep us engaged throughout, thanks to the powerful and magnetic Ben Turner. This is narrative theatre at its finest, absorbing, affecting and thoroughly entertaining.

Ben Turner and Andrei Costin.  Photo: Andrew Day.

Ben Turner and Andrei Costin. Photo: Andrew Day.