Culture Critic Holly Reaney reviews the must see touring show 'Shrek: The Musical' at The New Alexandra TheatreWritten by Holly Reaney on 16th February 2018
Review: The Kite Runner at Wyndam’s Theatre, London
Aamina Siddiqi is once again overwhelmed by the wonderful dramatisation of Khaled Hosseini's powerful book
“the Kite Runner tells the story of Amir who grows up seeking redemption for things that he did as a child
Raucous applause and wolf whistles fill Wyndam’s Theatre as the audience jump to their feet when the lights dim to signal the end of the play. Many people around me had shed tears and sniffles were mixed with loud clapping. The play had clearly hit a nerve. Based on the bildungsroman by Khaled Hosseini and set over three countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and America, The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir who grows up seeking redemption for things that he did as a child. The book is an instant modern classic, written with emotional rawness that stays with you long after you turn the final page. I was curious to see how this would be translated in theatre.
“Isn’t there a child within all of us? One that we try to appease with our adult selves
Some critics have latched on to Ben Turner's transition from adult Amir to child Amir and I can understand their frustration. The first person narration in the book provides a seamless transition from childhood but the play shows Amir being a child, an adult and providing a commentary. It may have been easy to cast a younger character to play moments from Amir’s childhood and have Turner, adult Amir narrating on the side. Yet, from the way that the story is unfolds and the fact that the decisions that Amir made from a young age has haunted every part his life, it makes sense to have the same person showing his life. Isn’t there a child within all of us? One that we try to appease with our adult selves.
Theatre has the luxury of time. You can stretch out scenes and explore them to their full potential but I felt that the time Amir was in America felt rushed. My favourite part of the story (because I am a hopeless romantic) is the friendship and eventually love that he develops with Soraya but it seem like there was any room for growth because of the time restraints. Her appearances were short and we did not get to see the intimacy she shared with Amir, particularly how she helped him through his father’s terminal illness and the infertility issues that they faced later on in life. Those moments to me showed us what it means to be human and the fact that these were not explored in much detail left me wanting more. Soraya’s mother, who Amir develops a friendship with, was killed off in the play which was odd and unexpected.
“The casting was flawless
The casting was flawless. I was utterly engrossed in an adaptation of the words that I had only read in a book. Compared to other productions that use complex props and costume changes, everything about The Kite Runner screams simplicity. Instead of an engineered stage, it opts to use wooden boxes and cleverly placed actors to create boundaries on an empty stage. It’s captivating and a testimony to the incredible acting. Even from the 'cheap seats' at the top (where I was sitting), the view was not compromised and was a wholly immersive experience. I have seen the same adaption before in 2014 in Birmingham and wanted to see it again. It was every bit as hauntingly beautiful as I remembered, with the same actors, same props, same costumes - even the same tabla player! - but this time, The Kite Runner relates to a different world outside. A world that has a political landscape marred by the refugee crisis and turmoil.
“Under the colour of our skin we all bleed the same blood
At curtain call, the cast stood in silence waiting for the applause to die down. Ben Turner came forward, holding a piece of paper and read out a statement saying that the theatre company is against the recent actions of the president of the USA. Khaled Hosseini came to America as a refugee from Afghanistan. His story, and indeed Amir’s could easily be anybody’s. Under the colour of our skin we all bleed the same blood.
Walking home through the bright lights of Leicester Square, I saw many other West End productions and wondered if Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or Mamma Mia has the same poignancy, and if the people who left those shows came out into the real world with their hearts bleeding for humanity.