The Kite Runner

‘THE KITE RUNNER”: David Ahmad & Andrei Costin. Photo: Irina Chira

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THE KITE RUNNER
Adapted by Matthew Spangler
Based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini
Directed by Giles Croft
Through August 26, 2017
Playhouse Theatre
Northumberland Avenue
London, WC2N 5DE United Kingdom
44 844 871 7631, http://thekiterunnerplay.com/

By David NouNou

LONDON–Not having read the 2003 novel The Kite Runner but having seen the 2007 movie, I remember enjoying it but didn’t think much about it after the film ended. So I came to this show with an indifferent attitude as it was my last show to see and review in London on this current visit. Seldom does a play come along that grabs you by your heart, feelings, emotions and humanity, one so powerful and effective that it could possibly stay with you forever. Such a play is The Kite Runner. I am so obsessed by it that I am still haunted and mesmerized by it.

The play starts modestly with a simple backdrop scene that changes with the situations. In comes a musician (Hanif Khan) playing the tabla (a pair of small drums fundamental to Hindustani music) in a pulsating rhythm, evoking various moods that will unfold. In walks Amir (David Ahmad), narrator and character. He lives in the Bay Area of San Francisco now and starts his monologue and I’m paraphrasing “There are things from your past you want to bury inside you and never want to think of them again, but there are always claws that will pull them out again.” So Amir thinks back to 1975 in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he lived in an estate with his father/Baba, (Emilio Doorgasingh) who is a Pashtun (upper class). His mother died during child birth, so he lived with his Baba’s devoted manservant of 40 years Ali (Ezra Faroque Khan) and his son, Hassan (Andrei Costin). Ali and Hassan are Hazaras (lower-class descendants of Ghengis Khan, Monguls who invaded the country) Amir and Hassan grew up together and were the best of friends and did everything that boys do together at that age. They lived like brothers in the household. Amir states that his first word was Baba, and Hassan’s first word was Amir. In that split second, it is a knife that stabs the heart and the play swallows you whole.

Hassan is devoted to Amir, heart and soul. Hassan loved to be read to and Amir complied. They both loved to fly kites. Amir did the flying, and Hassan found and brought back the defeated kites as the spoils. They also enjoyed going to the movies together. Their favorite genre was Westerns. Hassan especially wanted to meet John Wayne because he spoke Farsi in the movie Rio Bravo. Baba had to explain to him that John Wayne didn’t really speak Farsi but was dubbed. So on his 12th birthday, Hassan got a cowboy hat from Baba, starting a tear in the relationship. Amir never understood why Baba was so attentive to Hassan and so passive to him. Being a Hazara, Hassan was always picked on and beaten by the town bully, Assef (Bhavin Bhatt). Amir watched and never intervened but Hassan stilled loved Amir unconditionally.

On a particular day of the big kite fight, Amir had to prove his worth to his father by winning the kite fight by cutting them all down, and he succeeds and gets that admiration from Baba for a while. The big prize here for victory was the blue kite that belonged to Assef, and Hassan went to get it for Amir. Upon retrieving it, Hassan is accosted by Assef and his gang. Upon not relinquishing the kite, Hassan is brutally sodomized. While searching for Hassan, Amir witnesses the brutality and denies any knowledge of what happened to Hassan. Hassan’s love still isn’t diminished.

Through his own guilt of not coming to Hassan’s defense, Amir becomes belligerent to him and beats him up in the hope of wanting Hassan to stand up for himself and retaliate, but that doesn’t work, sending Amir further down the spiral of hating Hassan. When Amir tells his father he wants Ali and Hassan thrown out of the house, Baba goes ballistic on him and to never repeat such words. The final injustice comes on Amir’s birthday, where he gets a Rolex watch and money from his family as presents. Amir takes the watch and money and puts them under Hassan’s mattress. Amir accuses Hassan of stealing his presents, Hassan is known for his honesty, and when he is brought in front of Baba, Ali and Amir to explain, he admits he stole the presents. As Ali and Hassan prepare to leave Baba’s household, the grief for Baba is untenable, and a sobbing Baba pleads to Ali not to leave that all is forgiven. However, Ali considers his honor and they depart. Baba mourning his loss and Amir has to deal with his heinous guilt for the rest of his life.

Ultimately Kabul’s government monarchy is overthrown, Baba gives up his land and properties and flees to Pakistan and then America to San Francisco. He has to start all over. Amir meets Soraya (Lisa Zahra) and marries her. All seems well, when Amir gets a phone call from Rahim Khan, (Karl Seth), the claw of the past that resurfaces. Rahim is Baba’s former business partner from Kabul who was always fond of Amir and tells him he has to come to Kabul because Rahim Khan knows of the guilt and crimes that both he and Baba had committed to Ali and Hassan. If he ever wants peace and redemption in his life again, he has to fulfill his mission.

The immediate comparison one can reach is the biblical Cain and Abel story. However, this tale is so multifaceted, it is not only about brotherly love and hatred, it is about the sins of the father, guilt, jealousy, pride, friendship, devotion, new roots, class distinctions, a country’s religious sects and conflicts, salvation, humanity, faith and ultimately redemption. Never have so many issues been captured as a theatre piece in a single show and done with such conviction and passion. The dialogue flows so eloquently and touchingly that you just can’t shake it off once you leave the theatre. It stays with you, and that is the ultimate reward of a theatrical experience.

The performances by all were universally excellent. Giles Croft, the director, working with such a complicated tale, makes each scene flow seamlessly. The minimal sets just add to and heighten the imagination of what we are visualizing.

I can honestly say that my three favorite plays since 2000 are: War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and The Kite Runner. While War Horse and Curious Incident are theatrical masterpiece events, The Kite Runner is a masterpiece of life.

I really hope that this show will make its way to America/Broadway. I hope that a visionary and enterprising and not a greedy producer will bring this show to New York not for the profits it may generate for him but to thrill audiences witnessing a new masterpiece. There is so much bigotry and hatred generated by our current administration that I would hope it would not have a negative impact on the show. This isn’t about Muslims/Afghanistan vs. the USA; it is about life, inner turmoil within a country, how people cope with their lives, some change it, some lose it. It is about hope, salvation, humanity and redemption for all of us.

 

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published July 3, 2017
Reviewed at June 25, 2017 performance in London

 

 

‘THE KITE RUNNER’: (left to right) Emilio Doorgasingh, Ezra Faroque Khan & Andrei Costin. Photo: Irina Chira

 

‘THE KITE RUNNER’: Bhavin Bhatt & David Ahmad. Photo: Irina Chira

‘THE KITE RUNNER’: The cast in the wedding scene. Photo: Irina Chira

‘THE KITE RUNNER’: Andrei Costin. Photo: Irina Chia

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