Tag Archives: Matthew Spangler

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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The Kite Runner – 4*


The Kite Runner

Playhouse Theatre

Opening Night – 19th June 2017




“Truly memorable performances”



After a successful run at Wyndnam’s Theatre, The Kite Runner returns to London for a limited season at the Playhouse until the end of August.

Adapting such a well known, international best selling novel for the stage is a huge risk but Matthew Spangler manages to successfully transfer this evocative and powerful story from page to stage well.

With David Ahmad as Amir the scene is set with narratives delivered direct to the audience explaining the intricacies of the friendships and lives of 2 very different boys, highlighting key events which will turn their lives upside down. David plays the role of both Amir the boy and the man. Although he plays the part of Amir the man well there is something lacking with Amir the boy – the innocence feels like it’s missing. However, Andrei Costin as Hassan/Sohrab provides the character with a haunting innocence that portrays the sense of a truly good person. You immediately warm to him and instinctively want to protect him.

Emilio Doorgasingh gives a stand out performance as the incredibly proud Baba. Towering over the other characters physically he has a presence that portrays an innate strength despite the fact that he is carrying a secret which conflicts with his strong moral code. A truly memorable performance comes from Bhavia Bhatt as the abhorrent and evil Assef.

The simple set takes you through the years and transfers you from continent to continent without distracting from the acting.

This is a heartbreaking story which makes for a great stage play. The pockets of humour sprinkled throughout provide a welcoming lightness although I had an expectation that the play would be more emotionally charged.

A thoroughly enjoyable play but I felt that it slightly lacked in emotion to make it a truly wonderful production.


Reviewed by Angela East


Production Photography by Irina Chira



at The Playhouse Theatre

until August 26th