The Kite Runner | National Tour | Review

The Kite Runner

Richmond Theatre

until 16th March 2024

Director: Giles Croft

Originally produced by Nottingham Playhouse and Everyman & Playhouse Theatres

Based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini

Adapted by Matthew Spangler

On tour from 8th March – 6th July

The Kite Runner is known globally as one of the most poignant linguistic depictions of Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban and the Soviet invasion of 1979. The adapted play is based entirely off Hosseini’s novel and follows the story of Amir, a young boy growing up in Kabul, during a tumultuous and violent period of Afghanistan’s history. After Amir witnesses a savage act against his friend Hassan, he spends the next two decades searching for ways to atone his past.

Having read The Kite Runner many moons ago, I was incredibly intrigued by the stage adaptation. Entering Richmond Theatre, audiences were immediately welcomed by Barney George’s set; planks of wood lined the back, creating a fence-like backdrop, and a large wooden ramp dominated the width of the stage – George’s use of kites is also incredibly clever throughout. Hanif Khan, world-renowned Tabla player, performed as audiences entered, and combined with Charles Balfour’s dark blue to light blue gradient design, the production immediately succeeded in containing the atmosphere of a summer night in Kabul and a peace that would later be shattered.

Stuart Vincent has the mammoth task of playing Amir, our protagonist. His performance consisted of many, long monologues, which depicted and reflected on his past. Initially, Vincent’s performance felt slightly rushed, each word racing to escape, which meant snippets of the beautiful imagery and language were lost. As the show went on, Vincent settled in the character, revealing a more truthful, natural and whole-hearted depiction of Amir. In particular, the moments where he played young Amir, alongside Yazdan Qafouri as Hassan, were executed brilliantly; the two actors had a physical understanding and enjoyment of their work together, which translated to the youthful antics of the characters.

The stand-out performers I have to mention, are Yazdan Qafouri as Hassan, and Dean Rehman as Baba. Qafouri had such innocence in his performance yet maintained a quiet assurance of his skill and his ability to captivate audiences. I felt incredibly moved by his performance, and it was during his time on stage, I felt most engaged. Rehman’s Baba was also a delight but it was his physicality I was most impressed by. As the show progressed, his body contorted and adapted to the events so seamlessly and in totality, it was hard to take your eyes off him.

Other notable performers were Daphne Kouma as Soraya who performed a spell-binding monologue in the second half and Bhavin Bhatt, who returns to the production as Assef; he is disgustingly wonderful, capturing the violence and psychopathic tendencies of Assef as a young boy which are evident when we see Assef as an adult.  

At times, I felt the poetical genius of the novel was not entirely transferred to the stage production, but the cast navigated the work beautifully under Giles Croft’s direction. Comedy was employed effortlessly throughout the show and despite the harshness and brutality of the story, the lighter moments were used expertly to relieve the audiences. The cast also used Farsi language at times, which I thought was incredibly important and allowed the performers another outlet of language. Though I did not understand these moments verbally, the beauty of the Farsi language and the enjoyment of the actors using it, revealed the meanings regardless.

The Kite Runner is a fictional narrative yet the history and context of the story are very much real. In amongst the destruction and loss, the production highlights hope and reminds audiences that against all odds, freedom and solidarity are what matter; “For you, a thousand times over.”

Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of The Kite Runner, begins a new tour around the UK and Ireland, running from the 8th of March to the 6th July.

Reviewed by Lily Sitzia