Tuesday, July 23

The Kite Runner – The Lowry

I was not aware of the sport that is part of everyday life for young Afghan people – the joy and obsession of kite flying across the city of Kabul. This hobby is our equivalent to conker  fights in the playground but enjoyed with far more passion and pleasure. This hobby can be enjoyed by the rich and poor alike and has been a tradition in Afghanistan for hundreds of years. Kite flying originated in China 3,000 years ago and although a sport of young boys is a hobby that continues throughout adulthood with equal determination, competitiveness and joy.

The play “The Kite Runner” is the story of two young boys-  Amir (played superbly by Stuart Vincent) a Pashtun who in the 1970’s lived in a large house with his strict father (played wonderfully by Dean Rehman) and their servant – a Hazara and his son Hassan (who was played by the excellent Yazdan Qafouri).

The Pashtun people were Afghanistan’s largest ethnicity whilst the Hazaras had barely 10 per cent of the population and their central Asian look have always suffered discrimination.

Regardless of their ethnic differences, Amir and Hassan were inseparable and enjoyed their daily kite flying alongside other young men of their age. However, as with any sport, kite flying enticed kite fighting, and the two boys were bullied by gangs – especially the gang leader – Assef – who could not understand how two boys of different cultures and status were such bonded friends.

The bullying took on a new dimension and ashamed that his friend was abused in such a way Amir turns his back on his lifelong friend and incriminates him in a theft and their bond is broken. With the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, Hassan and his father leave their home and in doing so, leave Amir and his faither heartbroken. Soon after this Amir and his father also fleeing from the conflict in their country, escape and emigrate to America, finding solace in San Fransisco.

Amir and his father make a new life in America. Amir goes to college to study his love of creative writing, makes new friends and falls in love with Soraya (played by the enigmatic Daphne Kouma) and is married. Throughout all of these times however, he never forgets his devoted friend, whom he abandoned and rejected all those years ago in his home country.

As the years go by Amir’s father becomes very ill with cancer and dies and Amir continues to maintain his life in America, his heart always in Kabul and so when requested to return there to meet Hassan’s father he is drawn to go. In meeting his family friend, he learns that his wonderful friend Hassan has been murdered by the Taliban and that Hassan had a son Sohrab, who the Taliban have taken to an orphanage along with a regular input of young children and Hassan’s father begs him to bring the boy back. He also learns that his friend is actually his stepbrother as they shared the same father.

Riddled with guilt in how he had let his friend down, those many years ago and how this was a way he could be redeemed, Amir goes to get his nephew from the Taliban forces. In arriving at the orphanage, he meets a Taliban leader who in a strange twist of fate is the bully from Kabul – Assef -and the two fight one last time, this time over a boy instead of a kite. Through Sohrab’s slingshot hit, Amir is the visitor and Sohrab escapes the tyranny with his saviour.

This is an intense story that has so many aspects. It explores the relationships between father and son, two best friends and two people who fall in love in a strange new world; the struggle of transnational immigration and refugees; the peace and war within Afghanistan and of class and ethnicity. The main thread through this story however is guilt and the need to be forgiven.   I found the play very intriguing, passionate and insightful. The music that accompanied the story was played authentically by Hanif Khan. There were times when the diction was poor, and this did have a slight impact on the story, but the play is a wonderful adaption of the book and brings to life the lifelong love between people of different background, status and ethics.

“A true story of redemption”

Reviewer: Jan Mellor

Reviewed: 7th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.