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York
The Kite Runner At York Grand
Andrew Liddle, Features Writer
An exceptional novel of guilt and atonement, it became a first-rate film. Now Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner has been adapted by Matthew Spangler and become exceptionally compelling theatre, somehow managing to interrelate a sprawling story of a refugee living in California with a historic portrait of sectarian strife in his native Afghanistan.

Raj Ghatak, on stage all night as narrator and the central character of his own drama, makes an outstanding Amir, lean, eloquent, super-sensitive, repeatedly beating himself up for something that happened in childhood. Pashtun by birth, he had a privileged life before he and his father found themselves victims of the Soviet invasion. As the successful author that he became, he might have had a wonderful life fulfilling the American Dream, if only he could forget an act of betrayal to his boyhood friend, Hassan. The strident memory of it is somehow caught up in Hanif Khan’s tabla-playing, insistently the play’s very heartbeat.

Also by Andrew Liddle...
Burden Of Paradise In Hackness
Lettice And Lovage In Helmsley
Missing At York Theatre Royal
Fame Is The Spa
Dirty Dancing In York
Jo Ben Ayed gives the outstanding performance of his career to date as Hassan, the poor, dim-witted son of the family servant devoted to Amir. The eponymous character, his greatest skill is being able to retrieve his master’s kite when it has come down. Kite-flying, once almost a national pastime, is the book’s potent metaphor for liberty razed to the ground by the Taliban who ban it when they take over. The unspeakable thug, Assef, done to a vicious turn by Soroosh Lavasini, is racially and sexually motivated in his persecution of Hassan and it is hardly a surprise to learn later that he has become the bearded fanatic, a prominent force in the Taliban. He is Amir’s personal nemesis and almost inevitably - if in reality quite improbably - resurfaces at the moment of reckoning and redemption that the story is always building towards.

Gary Pillai, a familiar television face, defines the role of Hassan’s father, Baba, once an indomitable pillar of Kabul society, a generous, principled man ultimately destroyed by changing circumstances. His refusal in America to accept charity or to betray his own code of morality and the way he sets about the doomed task of rebuilding his life are part of the play’s long heartbreak. Amiera Darwish catches the eye as Soraya, a girl with a past who might have found a future with Amir, if only he could move on in life.

A large cast of versatile actors, playing a variety of roles under Giles Croft’s illuminating direction, take us on a long journey that spans a quarter of a century. We see people in their prime withering away, brought down by the ravages of age and racial prejudice, something which extends as far as the new world, wherever Afghan people are. We witness unspeakable outrages. We seriously question why religion is so hate-inducing, regardless of whatever name we attach to our Gods.

Not the least visually remarkable aspect is Barney George’s ingenious design, which often features a huge butterfly-shaped all-purpose kite, curtaining off the things we might not have the stomach to see and providing a canvas for images of war-torn Kabul or sunny San Francisco skyline.

This is one not to miss under any circumstances.

The Kite Runner is at York’s Grand Opera House until the 12th of May.

The Kite Runner At York Grand, 9th May 2018, 14:12 PM