ADAPTING Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel was always going to be a difficult task for Matthew Spangler.
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KING’S THEATRE, LEVEN STREET
An epic spanning 30 years, two hemispheres and widely contrasting cultures, it might work well on the written page and the silver screen. But on the stage..?
Set in Kabul, Afghanistan, The Kite Runner is essentially about friendship, redemption and the relationship between a father and his son. The main focus, however, is the friendship of Amir (Ben Turner), and the son of his father’s servant, Hassan (Andrei Costin) - two boys who spend most of their time flying kites and watching John Wayne movies.
Unfortunately, the unconditional loyalty Hassan has for his friend comes to a disturbing, heart-rending end; one which Amir will spend the rest of his life trying to make amends for.
A poignant, 150-minute piece that depicts male-rape, paedophilia, and blood-thirsty terrorists, the controversial subjects in Hosseini’s fiction are dealt with in a safe, unchallenging manner. The reality of Afghani life is also made palatable to Western audiences who prefer to view the Middle East from a safe, comfortable distance, and, with so much story to get through, it’s unsurprisingly heavy on narration. Subsequently, some scenes lack the required emotion, never fully impacting in the way they should. Yet it remains affecting.
There are light-hearted moments, too, though – Amir and his dad Baba’s introduction to America is a wee bit Crocodile Dundee, and the romance between Amir and his wife-to-be Soraya sweetens an often sour mood.
The actors, meanwhile, manage to perform multiple roles without minimising the relevance of their characters. Costin deserves praise for his portrayal as Hassan, and special mention must go to Nicholas Karimi who, as sociopathic young thug, Assef, predictably goes on to find an outlet for his twisted, evil ways as a leading member of the Taliban.
A packed house and standing ovation suggests this kite will fly across the stage for some time to come.
Run ends Saturday