The Kite Runner

Oct 10 2017 | By More

★★★★☆     Emotional

King’s Theatre: Mon 9 – Sat 14 Oct 2017
Review by Thom Dibdin

Raw and powerful, the stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel The Kite Runner has lost none of its edge as it returns to the King’s for a week-long run, three years after it was last here.

It is still a rolling thunder of emotion, which draws a complex series of threads, running them  from Kabul in the 1970s where young Amira runs free, on to his exile in America following the Russian invasion and then to his return to the city in 2001, when the Taliban hold power.

David Ahmad and Jo Ben Ayed. Pic: Betty Laura Zapata

Much of the fascination here is the complexity of those threads. In particular, Amir’s relationship with his playmate, Hassan, his father’s servant’s son and just a year younger than him.

Hassan is the kite runner of the title. A boy who runs after the falling kites defeated in the mass kite battles that rage over Kabul, their strings cut so they tumble down from on high. Hassan has an uncanny knack of being able to predict where they will fall.

All the heavy lifting of the production is done by David Ahmad, taking on the narrator’s voice as Amir, looking back on his Afghan childhood from America in 2001. Ahmad has a strong neutrality in his narration, but drops into a wheedling, high-pitched voice that crossers the borders of irritating when recreating his younger self.

But in the telling, under Giles Croft’s clear direction, the beginnings of those threads are cleverly drawn. Threads which will all be woven together at the end, only to be cut like the line of a fighting kite.

all-consuming remorse

Here is the beauty of Kabul, the mansion Amir called home, the childhood innocence, the sense of irritation that his father looks so fondly on Hassan, the sociopathic neighbour, the complexity of Hassan and Amir coming from different castes, the relationship between master and servant, and the calamitous loss of innocence and ensuing, all-consuming remorse.

David Ahmad (Amir) and cast. Pic: Betty Laura Zapata

In many ways it is so well drawn because Croft and his designer Barney George do not resort to literal representation. Only the kites, that metaphor for innocence in both the child and the country, are given much of an on-stage reality, otherwise it is all in the telling and in the moments of personal reaction as each character drops briefly into the narrative.

Which makes it tough for the rest of the large cast, having to create meaningful characters with the minimum of strokes. They achieve it, however. Jo Ben Ayed is bright-eyed loyalty as Hassan, Emilio Doorgasingh has a real presence to him as the father, Baba, and Ezra Faroque Khan a stoic dependability as Hassan’s father, Ali.

For all the lightness of touch, the violence and betrayal when they come, are even more hard to bear. Amir’s betrayal is clear to see from the outside as it is told, but the cleverness here is to portray it as it is seen from the inside, from Amir’s point of view and to understand his own disgust at himself.

There is much else to unpack here, too, in those winding threads. Notions of a culture fighting to survive in a different world, of young people coming to terms with their culture, of flight and of privilege, both unrecognised and abused.

Framed with Hanif Khan’s live tabla playing and lit to perfection by Charles Balfour, this is a hugely effective piece of theatre, which succeeds in leaving you squirming in your seat for a satisfying resolution, but knowing that what ever the chink of light it offers, this is tragedy – and its offer of redemption is too little and too late.

Running time two hours and 35 minutes (including one interval).
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Monday 9 – Saturday 14 October
Evenings: 7.30pm. Matinees Wed & Sat: 2.30pm
Tour website:

The novel, film and playscript are available through Amazon. Click on the images for details:

The Kite Runner on tour 2017/18:
9 – 14 Oct 2017 Edinburgh
Kings Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
17 – 21 Oct 2017 Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
30 Oct – 4 Nov 2017 Cheltenham
Everyman Theatre
01242 572573 Book online
6 – 11 Nov 2017 Bath
Theatre Royal
01225 448844 Book online
14 – 18 Nov 2017 Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650 Book online
21 – 25 Nov 2017 Exeter
Northcott Theatre
01392 493493 Book online
5 – 10 Feb 2018 Oxford
01865 305305 Book online
13 – 17 Feb 2018 Eastbourne
Devonshire Park Theatre
01323 412 000 Book online
20 – 24 Feb 2018 Crawley
The Hawth
01293 553636 Book online
5 – 10 Mar 2018 Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
27 – 31 Mar 2018 Mold
Theatre Clwyd
01352 701521 Book online
3 – 7 Apr 2018 Hull
New Theatre
01482 300 300 Book online
16 – 21 Apr 2018 Guildford
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
01483 44 00 00 Book online
24 – 28 Apr 2018 Southampton
The Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
30 Apr – 5 May 2018 Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 11 21 21 Book online
15 – 19 May 2018 Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
22 – 26 May 2018 Blackpool
Grand Theatre
01253 290 190 Book online
28 May – 2 Jun 2018 Buxton
Opera House
0845 127 2190 Book online


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