Kite Runner - Exeter Northcott (review)
by Jamie Taylor
How would you show a kite tournament on stage? Amir an Afghan refugee now living in America, reflects on a childhood event 26 years ago that makes him who he is today. Living with Baba (his father) and his two servants Ali and his son Hassan the best kite runner in all of Kabul. By March 1981, Kabul is a war zone;no longer home for Baba and Amir forcing them to a new life in America. But Amir can’t stop thinking about his loyal servant and friend Hassan, who made his last sacrifice even after what Amir had done.
Amir narrates as well as performs his story, as the character grows up. A talented cast brings the novel to life, with tear-jerking monologues to unexplainable events in Afghanistan. Ensemble work creates a sense of crowded streets to an American flea market. Performers make skilful quick changes from one character to another.
Matthew Spangler’s adaption of this heart-wrenching page turner challenges you to see the kites flying for yourself. Physical movement trick you to believe that hundreds upon thousands of kites are flying above Kabul. The simplistic staging takes on one’s vision of the story as well as allowing you to see your own. The play immerses you within the narrative and holds the tension at crucial moments, infusing action with Indian procession. A tabla player adds to the aura.
As with any adaption, detail is lost, but whilst this is generally minor, some characterisation in the book doesn't quite make it to the stage. Hassan and Amir’s childhood is shortened here; with more time focusing on their much older selves.
The Kite Runner went down well in the West End. This has been Devon's chance to enjoy the novel - and then the film - on the Exeter stage.