Review: The Kite Runner - Storytelling at its most gripping

BEST FRIENDS: David Ahmad and Jo Ben Ayed captivate
BEST FRIENDS: David Ahmad and Jo Ben Ayed captivate
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HONOUR, guilt, violence, repentance and, ultimately hope, lie at the heart of The Kite Runner, an often bleak piece of theatre that, none the less, remains spell-binding.

* * * * *

KING’S THEATRE, Leven Street

Based on Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel, this tale of a love and friendship that spans continents, cultures and generations is a bittersweet journey of self-discovery.

Wealthy Amir has spent his life haunted by the betrayal of his childhood friend Hassan.

Now settled in San Francisco, his early memories of kite flying tournaments in Kabul may be ever more distant, but the past has a habit of encroaching on the present.

And so, Amir is forced to return to a now war-torn Afghanistan.

There he must face up to the horrific repercussions of his cowardice many years before.

The Kite Runner is at times a difficult watch with truly devastating moments to tear at the emotions.

Narrating the play, David Ahmad’s Amir is not always likeable, yet the actor keeps him sympathetic throughout.

A warmly engaging story-teller, he breaks the fourth wall with gentle confidence in what is a gripping feat of memory.

Jo Ben Ayed, meanwhile, imbues Hassan with timid ferocity, expressed through few words. Instead he expertly uses his physicality to create a painfully subservient vulnerability.

Together, Ahmad and Ben Ayed are enchanting, the latter flitting in and out of the action as the former delivers Matthew Spangler’s vivid, if at time predictable script.

As Baba, Amir’s father, Emilio Doorgasingh is a deftly crafted creation while Amiera Darwish, as Amir’s wife Soraya Taheri, is wonderfully feisty and more than a match for Ravi Aujla’s haughtily imperious General Taheri.

Bhavin Bhatt’s grotesque Assef is easy to hate.

Designer Barney George’s clever use of old wooden pilings to cast the shadows of San Francisco’s high-rise skyline allows the action to transition easily between continents.

Live percussion by Hanif Khan, completes the illusion and if, at times, it over-powers the dialogue, it also brings the essence of the country to the fore.

A good play, they say should transport you.

Not only does The Kite Runner transport you to a land most will never see, it also has the emotional power to move in the most profound of ways.

What more can you ask?

Runs ends Saturday 14 October