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Brighton Year-Round 2024

The Kite Runner

Martin Dodd for UK Productions, Stuart Galbraith for Kilimanjaro Productions, present the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company and Liverpool Playhouse

Genre: Adaptation, Biographical Drama, Drama, Historical, International, Live Music, Mainstream Theatre, Theatre, Translation

Venue: Theatre Royal, Brighton


Low Down

Stuart Vincent’s anchoring central performance is enhanced by Yazdan Qafouri’s physical one. Theirs is a remarkable chemistry, radially informed by Dean Rehman and Tiran Aakel’s reactions.

A heartwarming, heartrending story, spellbindingly translated to the stage and here with more power even than before. Don’t miss it.


Giles Croft again directs, with the same creatives: Set Design, Barney George, Lighting Charles Balfour Projections, William Simpson. Composer Jonathan Girling, Sound Designer Drew Baumohl, Movement Director Kitty Winter, Fight Director Philip D’Orleans, Associate Director Damian Sandys.

The acclaimed musician Hanif Aakel is again foregrounded and plays downstage left and then right at key points.

Till June 15th


It’s wonderful to see this production again. Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner returns to Theatre Royal Brighton after its sell-out at 2013’s Brighton Festival and return in 2017, again directed by Giles Croft till June 15th. Nottingham Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman’s previous production has been again enhanced by the same creatives, but this is special.

The Kite Runner’s message of loyalty, guilt, redemption and kite flying exhales a lost Afghanistan, a window on a world snatched away as a kite with its string deliberately cut like the competitions that leave just one of a hundred bamboo and tissue constructions flying. It’s an uneasy childhood metaphor, and it’s no surprise this thrilling spectacle engages men into middle age.

But here it’s a story of betrayed friendship, secrets and fatherhood wrought against the lurch of history as foreigners destabilise Afghanistan and violent opportunists within make their gambit under the guise of religion.

Giles Croft returns with the same creatives: Barney George’s flexible design of roll-out carpets, jagged skyline backdrop of buildings that become ruins, and variously-blazoned curtains and reveals strikingly lit by Charles Balfour with William Simpson’s deft projections now enhanced with two wings added revealing a gallimaufry of patterns. Acclaimed musician Hanif Khan is again foregrounded and plays downstage left and then right at key points.

Stuart Vincent takes the lead as Amir. Baba (Dean Rehman) the hero Amir’s father and Tiran Aakel as Hassan’s father Ali and advisor Farid.

1973, the old king’s deposed after forty years, the length of time Ali and son Hassan have been in the service of widower Baba, a Pashtun upper-class businessman who treats them almost as family. They’re from the Hazara 10% Shia underclass, treated in Afghanistan almost as badly as Rohingyas are today in Myomar.

Hassan’s a superb kite runner, who knows where other kites will come in to attack his friend/master’s kite: Amir relies on him to retrieve kites they’ve cut and crashed, like conker trophies.

Slipping from narrator to flawed hero, Vincent’s performance is a tour de force of compressed epic telling and stuttering growth from timid boy to timid man, with bursts of courage towards the end. Yet Vincent never lets us forget the introverted boy Amir’s grown from, however street-savvy he might seem in San Francisco, or worldly returning to worldless Afghanistan. Every flinch makes us cringe but feel for Vincent’s flawless conception of a flawed, riven protagonist.

Amir wants to write. His disapproving father treats him with disdain: only fellow businessman Farid (Aakel’s other role) understands Amir, and plays a crucial role.

There’s a canker: Bhavin Bhatt returns as hyena-laughing sociopath bully Assef. Taunting Hassan as a “flatnose” Hazara he even cajoles timid bookish Amir into denying he’s a friend, merely servant. Hassan’s not even dented by this, but in Yazdan Qafouri’s hunched, excruciatingly moving servility a kind of resilience and courage shines out. At a crucial juncture he rescues Amir with his sling shot, but it won’t end there.

Baba who once won his own tournament but disapproves of Amir almost as much as he exalts Hassan (never forgetting his birthday) is briefly buoyed by thrilling events. Beautifully mimed with kites, it’s when Amir with Hassan’s help wins the tournament in winter 1975. Retribution swiftly follows. Amir secretly watches as appalling revenge is taken on Hassan by Assef. Unable to bear his own cowardice he projects guilt onto Hassan with devastating results.

Soon events force once-rich Baba and Amir to flee in the tank of a truck, make a new life in San Francisco, with comic and melancholy results. Amir’s in his element as a university-trained novelist, meets and wins Afghan general’s daughter Soraya (Daphne Kouma). This isn’t easy: chilling General Taheri (Ian Abeysekara) tears up a story Amir gives to his eager girlfriend. Help comes from an unexpected quarter, but Baba’s fallen ill.

Farid, also ill, calls Amir. “It’s time to be good again.” Amir’s trek back to the past now riven with danger is the extraordinary redemptive second act of this play. And courage must be faced on both sides of the world.

Adaptor Matthew Spangler who worked closely with the author felt this cries theatre: it does, more than film.

Apart from Vincent’s authoritative performance, Rehman’s rich baritonal delivery as Baba is superb: disdainful, aristocratic but vulnerable to tears behind the façade. His presence commands, his courage thrills, his illness is borne with terrible dignity. There’s dignity too in Aakel’s nobly forbearing servant Ali and friend Farid, counselling father and son.

Abeysekara’s chiselled performance as the General cuts like hard law. Bhatt’s Assef manages a quicksilver viciousness between fawning on Baba, turning on Amir and later, another incarnation altogether. Kouma too is fine, particularly in relating her past.

Aram Mardourian as various henchmen and Christopher Glover in authoritative roles, Stanton Wright, in smaller medical ones, Sulin Hasso as consular official Andrews and Amar Aggoun as ensemble etch vignettes as well as fly kites. Beyond, Hanif Aakel plays his tabla with devastating serenity.

There’s a fresh realisation of Jonathan Girling’s score, along with Drew Baumohl’s sound design and Kitty Winter’s movement.

Yazdan Qafouri’s physical performance though as Hassan and later Sohrab calls for special mention. He heightens Vincent’s interactions. These two are at their finest bouncing off each other’s terrible agencies: love, betrayal, guilt, it’s all curled in on itself like a broken kite. Theirs is a remarkable chemistry, radially informed by Rehman and Aakel’s reactions. It’s a heartwarming, heartrending story, spellbindingly translated to the stage and here with more power even than before. Don’t miss it.