The Kite Runner, Playhouse Theatre

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By guest critic Alistair Wilkinson

A father and a son. Two best friends. Immigration, refugees and global politics. It’s the mid-1970’s and Kabul is enjoying a time of peace and tranquillity. That is until a violent war engulfs Afghanistan tearing apart the friendship of Amir and Hassan. After a terrible incident alters their life forever, The Kite Runner is a story about guilt and redemption.

Unfortunately it’s a terribly written play. With too much narrative description and not enough action, Matthew Spangler’s adaptation falls short on every front. The bland conversation exchanges and lack of spark is frustrating to have to sit through, and moments that are meant to cause a visceral reaction instead leave the audience sitting and staring awkwardly. In the programme Spangler speaks about the pleasure of watching The Kite Runner, saying that there is so much in it to see, and absolutely, there is a lot to see, but the majority of it says nothing.

It’s not pleasurable – the show makes for a painful viewing experience. It is a real shame that Khaled Hosseini’s beautiful novel has been butchered in this horrific manner. None of the performances stand out as anything to write extensively positive notes about. David Ahmad does an amicable effort to flit between a childlike and adult Amir, but I fail to see why the producers could not have sought out child actors to play this role, as well as the part of Hassan.

This production reaks of privilege. It was adapted and directed by two white males, who seem to have a lack of awareness of Afghan culture. Khaled Hosseini’s novel is one of those books that you have to put down and take a walk around the room, in order to get over what you have just read; yet this adaptation makes a mockery of it. It’s difficult when you have a dull text as a starting point, yet poor casting and uninspired directive choices contribute to this catastrophe. The stakes are never high enough; every moment throughout seems forced and false.

The Kite Runner runs through 29 July.

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