STAGE REVIEW: A Thousand Splendid Suns @ Northern Stage, Newcastle (30.05.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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A Thousand Splendid Suns is at Northern Stage until Saturday 15th June.

A gifted empathetic storyteller, Khaled Hosseini draws an evocative picture in his novels of a war-torn Afghanistan, introducing his readers to beautiful characters leading complicated, conflicted lives. Those who treasure Hosseini’s second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns wonder with nervous curiosity how the book will work on stage. Describing the play as a theatrical experience, playwright Ursula Rani Sarma focuses on the growing friendship between Mariam and Leila, giving voice to the untold stories of women behind the burkas whilst exploring the depth of love, sacrifice, courage and compassion that all human beings are capable of.

As a theatrical experience, A Thousand Splendid Suns has it all: this Northern Stage production, in partnership with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, boasts an ambitious (rather inflexible) set, vibrant traditional dress, authentic music and an accomplished cast of nine. There are sharp intakes of breath from the audience, wincing and flinching, one guy even shouting out ‘No!’ when Leila trustingly hands over all her money to a friendly looking stranger. The production rises to the challenge of a non-linear narrative, portraying flashbacks and visions, violence and bombings, a miscarriage and a caesarean without anaesthetic on stage in an effectively dramatic way. The shocking scene in which Mariam leaves the ‘shape’ of her crouched body to observe a beating from a distance was a striking symbol of dissociation.

Whilst the play for me lacks the novel’s poetry and emotional resonance, it successfully gives flesh and voice to this heart-breaking and yet life-affirming tale of the resilience of the human spirit shining through unfairness and injustice.

 

 

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