Despite its constant presence in the media for the last 13 years, there are still very few people who would be able to explain what is happening in Afghanistan and how it came to be this way. Even fewer people have the skill to make the explanation interesting.
When The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was released in 2003, it took the world by storm and gave its readers a fascinating education in the history of Afghanistan. Furthermore, it grasped each of us by the scruff of the neck and said ‘look – this is the reality that our fellow humans are facing’.
Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Hosseini’s novel for the stage had exactly the same effect, and in some ways allowed the audience a greater involvement in the story than a book can ever provide. The result was an exhausting and harrowing production that left the Nottingham Playhouse audience stunned in their seats.
One of the most effective methods of Spangler’s adaptation was the use of the same actor (Ben Turner) for both young and old Amir, distinguishing the two with different voices. This allowed for seamless movement between the past and present, and made it easier for us to connect with him, even through his soul-baring truth telling and his brutal childish honesty.
This connection forced the audience to question our own actions and demonstrated how a failure to act can have devastating consequences. By bearing his own horrific story, Amir invited us to learn from his mistakes, to follow our gut instinct and protect our fellow man.
The scenery, which appeared minimalistic at first, hid a huge array of different places – with the ingenious use of a large silk curtain onto which patterns and images were projected, and a simple wooden fence that became the San Francisco skyline later on in the play. Real kites were used for the early kite scenes, which were delightful to watch, and then handheld wooden whirring sticks were employed to replicate the sound of wind.
Yet what was truly special was the music. In the corner, smiling musician Hanif Khan sat with his drums and singing bowls like an omnipresent God. Beating away at the drums as the audience streamed in and took their seats, he rapidly set the tone and we felt transported to another country. Khan was tasked with providing the atmosphere for the duration of the evening and he didn’t disappoint.
This production brought Amir’s heartbreaking story to life and enhanced it using the power of music. It will be a difficult version to beat.
The Kite Runner is playing at Wyndham’s Theatre from December 2016 onwards.