Tag Archives: Barney George

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner


Richmond Theatre & UK Tour

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner

Richmond Theatre

Reviewed – 10th March 2020



“doesn’t always capture the beauty of the novel, but it certainly wrings the emotion from the central themes and relationships”


Khaled Hosseini’s beautifully crafted debut novel, published in 1993, begins by telling the story of Amir, a young boy from the Kabul, and his close friend, Hassan. Hosseini successfully weaves an intimate saga of guilt and atonement into the framework of an epic backdrop. Although set against a backdrop of the tumultuous events – from the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the Soviet invasion; the exodus of refugees and the rise of the Taliban – the reader is continually drawn into the minds of the main protagonists, and their personal battles and relationships. Presenting the grand scale of its setting with the small scale drama of the characters is always going to be a challenge. Matthew Spangler’s adaptation for the stage is faithful to the book and tells the story with startling clarity. It is inevitably condensed but Spangler manages to include all the key events without muddying the context.

We begin at the end. Afghani immigrant Amir is summoned from his California home to Pakistan by Rahim Khan, an old, dying friend of his father, who enigmatically tells Amir that “there is a way to be good again”. Rewind a quarter of a century and we meet Amir as a wealthy, privileged boy in Afghanistan, and his best friend, Hassan, the son of his father’s servant. When Hassan is brutally assaulted by a local bully, Amir is too scared to save him, and is tormented by feelings of guilt which follow him across the continents and generations. Barney George’s simple but effective set, dominated by a rising and falling kite, neatly evokes the central themes while also setting the scene – deftly transforming the Afghan landscape into the San Francisco skyline. Without having to worry where we are geographically and politically we are free to concentrate on the characters and the story. A story of love and betrayal, fathers and sons, good and evil, and the many grey areas in between.

David Ahmad, as Amir, is central to the drama, alternating between the role of narrator and then stepping into his reminiscences. The play does veer disproportionately towards telling us what happens rather than showing us, but Ahmad is a skilled storyteller whose portrayal is ultimately quite moving, especially in the closing moments when he learns some uncomfortable truths about his childhood. Equally strong support comes from Andrei Costin as the childhood friend, Hassan, who also doubles as his own orphaned son (apologies for the spoiler!) in the second act. Their alliance forms much of the political tension: their respective families coming from opposing ethnic backgrounds, although both becoming victims of the rise of the Taliban.

Dean Rehman cuts a formidable figure as Amir’s father, casting twin shadows of love and overbearing expectations over his susceptible son. The ensemble shift in the background between varying characters, occasionally coming to the fore to highlight key moments in the plot; particularly Lisa Zahra, who encapsulates wonderfully the patience and sorrow of Soraya, a fellow refugee of Amir who becomes his wife.

This production of The Kite Runner doesn’t always capture the beauty of the novel, but it certainly wrings the emotion from the central themes and relationships. In just over two hours we do get a pint-sized version, but it is a clear-cut potted history, thick with the atmosphere of a family saga; an atmosphere intensified by Jonathan Girling’s rhythmic soundscape, played live by Hanif Khan. Hosseini’s words are brought to life from the page in Giles Croft’s captivating production that orchestrates a man’s epic journey to the intimate tempos of his beating heart.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Irina Chira


The Kite

The Kite Runner

Richmond Theatre until 14th March then UK tour continues


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Tom Gates | ★★★★ | March 2019
Frankenstein | ★★★ | November 2019


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Mother Courage and her Children

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 6th November 2017


“Lawrence articulates to the audience a character with steely determination and an innate inner strength”


Hailed by some as the best play of the last hundred years, I was excited to see this performance. The story follows a mother who is determined to make a living and protect her children through the barbaric Thirty Years’ War by any means available to her.

The scene is immediately set as you are led into the auditorium by ushers dressed as soldiers. The stage is a central walkway with seating on either side. As you enter, a boy is playing centre stage with toy soldiers alongside Barney George’s set of scaffolding, dirty tarpaulin, rope and smoke, illustrating the desolate landscape of war.

Part of the staging (and large portions of the play) are performed on a mezzanine level behind one half of the audience. If you are sat on this side it is almost impossible to watch without straining your neck or annoying the person next to you! This I felt was a strange decision from director Hannah Chissick and actually unnecessary as the main performance on the central stage and aisles worked well.

Josie Lawrence puts on a strong performance as Mother Courage. She articulates to the audience a character with steely determination and an innate inner strength that enables her to survive and adapt to whatever the war torn environment throws at her. She displays a huge range of emotions from deepest sadness to frustrated anger and uses quick witted humour to build relationships and diffuse dangerous situations. It is a remarkable feat given that she is centre stage for much of the 3 hours of the production.

Phoebe Vigor who plays Kattrin shows off her acting abilities by giving a stand out performance as the mute daughter. Using only facial expressions you feel her emotion and heartache without her actually uttering a word. You sense the depth of her helplessness and frustration whenever she sets foot on stage.

Laura Checkley playing Yvette brings life to the stage as the loud quick-witted prostitute. She commands the stage with a swagger and a sharp tongue that leaves the men she encounters a quivering wreck.

I enjoyed the performance but felt that something was lacking … perhaps not being able to see some of the acting didn’t help? It was also very long. Too long. To keep the audience engaged for the full 3 hours it needs to have much greater pace and stronger performances from the supporting actors.


Reviewed by Angela East

Photography by Scott Rylander






is at Southwark Playhouse until 9th December



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