More than a decade since the film adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's hugely successful book received critical acclaim, Giles Croft helps The Kite Runner soar to new heights in an immersive, bold and deeply moving production.
The Kite Runner tells the story of two Afghanistani boys, Amir and Hassan, who grow up together in Kabul against a backdrop of political turbulence and religious division.
Amir's father is one of Kabul's most successful businessmen and employs Hassan and his father, Ali, on his magnificent estate. Despite their contrasting stations and their ethnic and religious differences the boys are friends who take part in kite fighting together. But an encounter with an older boy which ends brutally for Hassan leaves Amir wracked with guilt for doing nothing to stop the attack and he becomes resentful of Hassan's unflinching loyalty.
The boys are forced apart and Amir and his father flee Afghanistan as the Taliban seizes control of the country, leaving them to rebuild their lives as refugees in America. But Amir is unable to forget his betrayal of Hassan and when he hears from a friend of his father's years later, he learns a shocking truth and sets about seizing his last chance at redemption.
This immersive production tells the story from Amir's point of view and Raj Ghatak delivers a simply astonishing peformance in what must be one of the most exacting roles in theatre. His transitions from present day narrator to the character in his own story are seamless. It's nothing short of an acting tour de force and Ghatak is able to envelope you completely in his character's world. The grief, the sadness, the guilt, the joy; you're with him every step of the way. It's all so very real and beautifully portrayed.
The set is genius in its simplicity with a curved stage and revolving backdrop helping the action to move swiftly and convincingly. There are some really clever pieces of choreography and when it's time for the story to move along Amir simply breaks out of the scene and into present day narration with remarkable clarity.
Jo Ben Ayed plays Hassan with intense vulnerability and portrays his character's loyalty to Amir quite beautifully. He and Ghatak are thoroughly believable as two boys whose friendship is doomed by the prejudice around them and the production handles the disintegration of that friendship following Hassan's attack brilliantly.
Soroosh Lavasani is chilling as the snarling villain of the piece, Assef, and Gary Pillai turns in a powerful performance as Amir's outwardly brash but secretly tormented father.
Elsewhere Karl Seth adds an important air of authority and meaning to the tale as Amir's father's long-time business partner and friend Rahim Khan.
This is a production with real heart which brings new depth to a heart-rending tale.
The Kite Runner plays at The REP until 24 March.
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