Review: The Kite Runner @ The Lowry, Salford

Hosseini’s modern classic is brought from page to stage in a heart-breaking yet spectacular fashion at The Lowry.

Adapted for the theatre by Matthew Spangler and directed by Giles Croft, this truly affecting piece is a universal tale of friendship, love, loss and hope.

Starting in Afghanistan in the 1970s, the story of The Kite Runner follows Amir, a young boy from Kabul who dreams of becoming a writer.

However, as Afghanistan’s political turmoil unfolds across the years, so too does Amir’s comfortable childhood.

After witnessing a horrific and violent act on his best friend Hassan, Amir’s inability to intervene or to subsequently process his shock, grief and guilt ultimately leads to not only the division of his friendship but the upheaval of his whole family.

David Ahmad plays the role of Amir beautifully.  Portraying him both as a child and as an adult – therefore never leaving the stage – Amir is also the narrator, guiding the audience through the show. 

GRIPPING: A tale of friendship, love, loss and hope

Ahmad told MM: “It’s actually a really privileged place to be, people are coming here to watch you and they’re allowing you to tell them your story.

“It’s quite intimate in that sense, which is a really nice thing – to have that complicity with the audience, it’s great.

“The beauty of the play is you’ve got this person guiding you through the story, so immediately the audience goes on this journey with the character. “

And it’s quite the journey.

From the opening scenes of white kites soaring above San Francisco, the audience is transported back to a palace in Afghanistan where two boys play cowboys and Indians.  

The games don’t last long, however, and soon the audience is not only found fighting against the rising political unrest but fighting for the survival of the boys’ friendship.

As the wedge is driven irretrievably between the two youngsters, the invasion of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan forces Amir and his father to flee the country and leave everything behind.

Years after starting a new life with his father in San Francisco, Amir is given the chance to finally face his demons and redeem himself after so long living with his guilt.

“It is ultimately a story of redemption, but everybody makes mistakes and I think that’s one of the reasons why it affects people,” said Ahmad.

“There’s something in the story that will affect everybody who sees it, whether it’s the betrayal of a friend, whether it’s the loss of a parent, whether it’s falling in love – all of those things – there is something that will touch the audience.”

Beneath the plot of Amir’s journey is the slowly unfolding story of his dad, Baba, played masterfully by Emilio Doorgasingh.  

He is a single father who wants nothing but the best for his child, but who harbours painful secrets of his own.

The subtle tension between Amir and Baba is arresting, as Amir desperately craves his parent’s love, while Baba is careful to – almost – never let his guard down.

The whole story, at times tender, at times absolutely shocking and brutal, is never less than captivating.  It ends, fittingly, with Amir poised at the beginning of another, more hopeful relationship in his life.

POIGNANT: The story is as relevant as ever

The Kite Runner was first published as a novel in 2003, by Khaled Hosseini, and the story spans the decades from 1970s Afghanistan to America in the early 2000s.

Yet, 14 years after its first publication, the story feels as relevant and as poignant as ever.

Ahmad said: “It’s a very human story and of course it’s still relevant today, stories of migrant populations etc, more so than ever.  

“Everybody’s got their own personal stories of what it’s like, and I think that feeds into the response of the audiences.”

Special mention must be made to musician Hanif Khan, who sits onstage throughout the show playing the tabla – a traditional south Asian percussive instrument. 

Khan deftly aids each scene, creating drama, building suspense and surprising shifts in tempo with his evocative playing.

*The Kite Runner is showing at The Lowry, Salford until Saturday, October 7. You can buy tickets HERE.

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