A five-star performance at Playhouse

Ben Turner and Andrei Costin in The Kite Runner''Photo by Robert Day
Ben Turner and Andrei Costin in The Kite Runner''Photo by Robert Day

Despite its constant presence in the media for the last 13 years, there are still few people who would be able to explain what is happening in Afghanistan and how it came to be this way.

Even fewer 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 us by the scruff of their 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 exhaustingly harrowing production which left Nottingham Playhouse audience members 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, 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 which also became the San Francisco skyline later on.

For the kite scenes, real kites were used in the beginning, 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. 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, and he was tasked with providing the atmosphere for the duration of the evening.

This production brought Amir’s gorgeously heartbreaking story to life and enhanced using the power of music. It will be a difficult version to beat.

Five stars.