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.