"Epic Kite Runner soars high"
by Tim Mottershead for remotegoat on 30/05/18

Following a run in the West End, ‘The Kite Runner’ opened at Buxton Opera House last night. Based on Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 novel, the opening premise is the relationship between two young boys Amir (Raj Ghatak) and Hassan (Jo Ben Ayed). Amir is the son of a wealthy businessman Baba (Gary Pillai); whilst his best friend Hassan is the son of his father’s long-standing servant Ali (Rez Kabir). The idyll presented, seems a potentially fragile one, especially when religious, hierarchical, and cultural concerns are added to the immediately apparent class divide: for Amir is a Pushtun Sunni Muslim, whilst Hassan is a Hazaras Shia Muslim.

However, for the moment all as well as the boys join in the innocent excitement of a kite flying tournament on a beautiful day in Kabul. The innocence is shattered when neighbourhood bully and ‘sociopath’ Assef (Soroosh Lavasini) reminds Amir that Pashtuns are superior to Hazaras. In a particularly cruel incident Assef attempts to seize the kite from Hassan, and thus falsely claim victory of the tournament for himself. Unbeknown to the other two, Amir secretly witnesses this confrontation, but appears powerless to intervene. The consequences of these actions prove to have far-reaching implications for all three, but in particular for Amir himself, aware he has failed his friend.

The subsequent working out of this story proves to be an epic worthy of a favourite story of the two boys, Ferdowsi's 10th century epic poem ‘The Shahnameh’. This is in no small part attributable to the recent history of Afghanistan: the country is declared a republic, followed by the Soviet invasion, the flight of refugees, the rise of the Taliban, the events 9/11 and the US invasion; to mention the more obvious events. The play also explores the way in which actions/events of one’s forebears prove to have inescapable consequences, told against the backdrop of Amir’s attempt to find redemption.

The cast was completed by Ravi Aujla, Amiera Darwish, Oliver Gyani, Umar Pasha, Jay Sajjid, Karl Seth, and Danielle Woonutt, in a variety of roles. The atmospheric tanpura and bell music was composed by Jonathan Girling (with sound design by Drew Baumohl) whilst live tabla from Hanif Khan, including an extended solo to commence, proved a real highlight. Design (Barney George) lighting (Charles Balfour) and perhaps particularly projection (William Simpson) also significantly enhanced the sense of place, time, and culture.

The novel was adapted for the stage by Matthew Spangler: it seemed to hang together as a self-contained piece, and appeared well-summarised. What impressed the most was the way in which themes which came very satisfyingly to fruition later in the proceedings, had been adumbrated with such subtly earlier on. The production directed with an unerring eye for pace by Giles Croft.

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