THEATRE REVIEW: The Kite Runner ★★★★
The Kite Runner
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Wednesday 1st November 2017
Based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini which was released in 2003 and then made into a film in 2007, Flying Entertainment brings 'The Kite Runner’ straight from the West End onto a UK tour, stopping off at The Everyman Theatre along the way. Set in the mid 1970s, we follow the life of Amir (David Ahmad) and his relationship with his servant, Hassan (Jo Ben Ayed), who are the closest of friends whilst living in Kabul. This tale is so wonderfully told through storytelling that as an audience member you are transported instantly away from the present world and engrossed in the action on stage.
What is so vital to have in a production of any kind is chemistry, which Ahmad and Ayed both excel at with confidence; I felt so passionately towards these characters, which is rightly so given how harrowing the story gets as the boys in this story encounter bullies such as Assef, who is portrayed by Bhavin Bhatt with such conviction that you really do despise the character from the beginning, and continue to do so as he picks and hurts on these two closest friends. The whole ensemble for this matter work with such slick precision that everything seems fine tuned to every last sentence spoke.
For a production which has come straight from the West End, this seems even more apparent when looking at the set, which is beautifully designed Barney George to give this playful look to a story set on friendship; what looks like a skate park with curved rostra platforms either side really helps create a mental image in your head of two kids having fun, and this is heightened even further with the use of organic and authentic live percussion from Hanif Khan, the Tabla player who is situated downstage left and right for either act of the play; his skill is impeccable and awe-inspiring to watch, especially given that in the creative rehearsal process, he couldn't read western notation so improvised with gestures, sounds and taps.
As you enter the auditorium to take your seats, he is already playing on stage with the Tabla, which is a really nice touch to get you prepared. Other instruments that are used during this production from Hanif and the rest of the company include Oil Drums, Tibetan Singing Bowls, the Tampura, and most importantly to give off the sound of wind within the kite tournament scenes, Schwirrbogen’s, which are long wooden rattles which really adds to the tension and suspense in particular moments of drama throughout the production.
Overall, The Kite Runner is a powerful, emotional tale about true friendship which is brought to the stage beautifully by a compelling company who have brought this loved book organically through the use of instruments, lights and costumes.