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Nottingham.

THE KITE RUNNER: adapted by Matthew Spangler.
4Stars****


Nottingham Playhouse.
www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 55m: one interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 1st September 2017.


One of the best Nottingham Playhouse productions in recent years.

After its recent West End run The Kite Runner returns home to Nottingham Playhouse. It’s as good as ever.

Concerned as it is with friendship and love, ethnicity and caste, betrayal, guilt and redemption, the play still has all the narrative thrust and grandeur, and power to satisfy, as one of those hefty Victorian novels. Set chiefly in Afghanistan and later in America, it covers a thirty-year time span, with riches to rags, dangerous journeys, immigration, romantic love, domineering fathers; and finally, a major revelation about the past involving adultery.

A functional, stylised set and well-used back projection and lighting are visually compelling. And Hanif Khan again sits at the side of the stage helping to establish atmosphere on a brilliantly played tabla.

Protagonist and narrator – like many page to stage adaptations this is a tad over-dependent on narration – Amir, is acted man and boy by David Ahmad in a fine performance. It’s often awkward when an adult actor plays a child, but not here. As well as kite-flying, he and bosom friend Hassan (Jo Ben Ayed), the kite runner of the title, enjoy John Wayne films. They think their hero lives in Iran.

Emilio Doorgasingh, in a return appearance, is splendid as Amir’s widower father, Baba, a westernised Scotch-drinking businessman. The relationship between him and aesthete Amir is crucial to the play. His son hasn’t lived up to his expectations – he thinks he’s effeminate. And it’s a nice bit of dramatic irony – at this point it’s the pre-Taliban 1970s – when he hopes the religious bigots, those “self-righteous monkeys”, never get to rule the country.

Towards the end, as in the book, there’s a short but sad lapse into schoolboy melodrama. But a rich variety of scenes include a one-way fight between Amir and Assef (Bhavin Bhat), a vicious child rapist, and the arrival of father and son in laid-back San Francisco – utterly different from the Kabul they’ve left behind. And there’s a beautifully handled falling in love encounter.

Again directed by Giles Croft, this is one of the best things he’s done during his years at Nottingham Playhouse.


Amir: David Ahmad.
General Taheri/Raymond Andrews: Ravi Aujla.
Hassan/ Sohrab: Jo Ben Ayed.
Assef: Bhavin Bhatt.
Soraya/Mrs Nguyen: Amiera Darwish.
Baba: Emilio Doorgasingh.
Ensemble: Olivia Gyani.
Ali/Farid: Ezra Faroque Khan.
Musician: Hanif Khan.
Kamal/Zaman: Umar Pasha.
Wali/Doctor: Jay Sajjid.
Rahim Khan/Dr Schneider/ Omar Faisal: Karl Seth.
Ensemble: Danielle Woodnutt.


Director: Giles Croft.
Designer: Barney George.
Lighting Designer: Charles Balfour.
Projection Designer: William Simpson.
Composer: Jonathan Girling.
 
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