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The Kite Runner
John Wayne doesn't speak Farsi! — Baba
The Kite Runner
Ben Turner as Amir and Andrei Costin as Hassan (Photo: Robert Workman)
Giles Croft's production opens with a virtuoso drumming welcome from Tabla player Hanif Khan. Ethereal kites as light as tissue paper seduce while we are taken back to Amir 's (British actor of Iranian origin, Ben Turner) memories of life in Afghanistan when he was 12 years old.

We meet his friend, Hassan (Andrei Costin) the son of his father's servant Ali (Ezra Farooque Khan). Both these boys are motherless, Amir's mother having died in childbirth and Hassan's mother disgraced and having left her husband. We meet the local bully Assef (Nicholas Karimi) who terrorises Hassan for not being a member of the Pashtun society who tend to be Sunni Muslims and not Shia. Through these three boys we are introduced to the divisions of Afghanistan then.

Amir's childhood in Kabul is full of Western influence through the Westerns of John Wayne but the local sport is kite running, the kite competition where competitors try to cut the strings of others' kites and the kite runners, who try to retrieve the fallen kites by predicting where they will land and being on site first.

We feel the influence of Amir's lone parent Baba (Emilio Doorasingh) - his words of wisdom to his son, and the ways in which he passes to his son his moral code. "Every other sin is a variation of theft, " he says as he talks about what is taken away by adultery or murder. Coming from a rich class of Afghani society, we see the strength of character of this man when he copes with great deprivation as Afghanistan is taken over by the Taliban. As refugees, Amir and his father come to America to California.

The staging of the bright life in California is vibrant and zany as we see American culture through the eyes of these new arrivals. I loved also the staging of Amir and Soraya (Lisa Zahra) 's wedding in America to traditional music and Afghani costumes.

There are stories of great pain and tragedy centred on Hassan's life, mostly after Amir leaves him behind but one that happens beforehand. , I would recommend that the graphic nature of these accounts make the play unsuitable of for those under mid teens in age. I particularly liked Matthew Spangler's sensitive writing of Khaled Hosseini's seminal characters so that the story does not feel rushed as often stage adaptations of large novels can. Each one of these Afghanis made an impression on me and by the end of the play I would consider some of them to be my friends.

Ben Turner is the glue that holds The Kite Runner together in a performance that has him constantly onstage and is entirely believable, including those difficult scenes when he and Andrei Costin play their childhood selves. I very much liked Emilio Doorasingh's generous portrait of Baba, the father figure but the ensemble cast take on several roles with skill and believability.

The visuals are most important. Designer Barney George's wooden curved base to the stage and rising desert rocks or San Francisco skyscrapers on the horizon, Kitty Winter's interesting choreography with the flying kites, Charles Balfour's clever lighting and William Simpson's projections allow us to move creatively from Afghanistan to America, and back when Amir, now a successful novelist returns to his homeland.

The Kite Runner has the history of modern Afghanistan as the backdrop to the redemptive narrative of Amir and Hassan's families but it is the story of the choices Amir makes which stay with me.

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The Kite Runner
Written by Khaled Hosseini
Adapted for the stage by Matthew Spangler
Directed by Giles Croft
Starring: Ben Turner, Emilio Doorasingh, Antony Bunsee, Andrei Costin
With: David Ahmad, Bhavin Bhatt, Nicholas Karimi, Natasha Karp, Exra Faroque Khan, Hanif Khan, Nicholas Khan, Johndeep More, Lisa Zahra
Design: Barney George
Lighting Design: Charles Balfour
Sound Design: Drew Baumohl
Composer and Music Director: Jonathan Girling
Projection Designer: William Simpson
Movement: Kitty Winter
Fight Director: Philip d'Orleans
Running time: Two hours 45 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0844 482 5120
Booking to 11th March 2017
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 10th January 2016 performance at Wyndham's Theatre, St Martins Lane, London WC2H 0DA (Tube: Leicester Square)
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