STAGE REVIEW: The Kite Runner @ Theatre Royal, Newcastle (30.04.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Raj Ghatak (Amir) and Jo Ben Ayed (Hassan) by Betty Zapata

You’ve read the book, you’ve seen the film, and so you can’t help wondering how such an epic novel as Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, that spans decades and continents, can be adapted for the stage. As a professor at San Jose State University in California, where he teaches courses in playwriting and immigration studies, Matthew Spangler is well placed to take on this challenge.

The play focuses on one central figure Amir, the storyteller of his own tale of guilt and redemption, dipping in and out of intensely dramatic key moments in his life that affect his destiny and the destiny of those around him. Played by Raj Ghatak, Amir is an uncomfortable unreliable narrator, leading the privileged life of a Pashtun, unlikeable in his innate sense of superiority over his Hazara servant and companion Hassan. If we’re looking for a hero, Amir is not our guy. Amir is a disappointment on stage as in life. How can he be otherwise?

The set is sparse and yet evocative, but it is the music that sets the scene. Composer Jonathan Girling collaborated with live Tabla player Hanif Khan, adapting classical Indian cycles of rhythm to underscore the dramatic storyline, interspersed with beautiful Afghan songs and familiar 80s pop songs. Tibetan singing bowls represent the sound of rushing blood in your ears, the schwirrbogen become the wind beneath the fluttering kites in the Afghan sky…it is the sounds that take you there, back to an Afghanistan that has not always been the country we know it to be today.

This is a story of global politics, transnational immigration, class and ethnicity. It’s also the story of father and son, two best friends, a love story. Take from it what you will. There’s a huge amount here, too much to take in, an epic tale condensed into an experience that will resonate in your ears and in your heart.

The Kite Runner is at Theatre Royal, Newcastle until Saturday 5th May.


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