REVIEW: The Kite Runner – Lyceum Theatre – Sheffield


Currently touring at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre, The Kite Runner delivers a powerful and emotionally charged adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel. Directed by Giles Croft and adapted by Matthew Spangler, the production plunges the audience into the tumultuous world of 1970s Kabul, where a kite-flying tournament sets the stage for a life-altering event. Featuring exceptional performances by Stuart Vincent as Amir and Yazdan Qafouri as both Hassan and Sohrab, the play masterfully explores themes of friendship, betrayal, and redemption. With a simple yet effective set design by Barney George and an immersive soundscape that includes live music by Hanif Khan and on-stage musician Daphne Kouma, the production creates a hauntingly vivid portrayal of a society on the brink of change.

The Kite Runner follows the poignant and tumultuous journey of Amir, a young boy from a wealthy family in Kabul, Afghanistan. The story begins with Amir’s close friendship with Hassan, the son of his father’s servant, and revolves around a pivotal kite-flying tournament that Amir hopes will win him his father’s approval. The narrative poignantly explores themes of redemption and the enduring scars of past actions.

The production is a masterclass in effective narrative portrayal and a testament to the power of performance and storytelling. Stuart Vincent’s portrayal of Amir is nothing short of extraordinary. He navigates Amir’s complex journey from a privileged, guilt-ridden boy to a man seeking redemption with nuanced precision. Vincent captures the audience’s empathy, even as Amir makes morally questionable decisions, which is a testament to his acting prowess. Being on stage for virtually the entire show, Vincent carries the show throughout creating a deeply resonating portrayal layered with emotion, history and pain.

Yazdan Qafouri’s dual role as Hassan and Sohrab is a highlight of the performance. As Hassan, Qafouri embodies innocence and loyalty, creating a heart-wrenching contrast to Amir’s inner turmoil. Later, his depiction of Sohrab, marked by silence and trauma, is equally compelling. Qafouri’s ability to switch between these contrasting characters with such emotional depth is truly remarkable​. There is something deeply poignant in Qafouri’s portrayal which is a testament to his exceptional characterisation.

Barney George’s set design is elegantly simple, allowing the story to remain at the forefront. The minimalist set effectively represents various locations in Kabul, such as Amir’s home, the streets bustling with the excitement of the kite tournament, and the harrowing scenes in the war-torn city. This simplicity does not detract from the narrative but rather enhances it, focusing attention on the actors and their interactions​. Use of projection is effective and successfully avoids the trap of becoming over reliant on it.

The sound design, by Drew Baumohl, is an integral part of the production’s success. The live music, including the evocative sounds of the tabla and the schwirrbogen, creates an immersive auditory experience. On-stage musician Hanif Khan skilfully weaves traditional Afghan music into the narrative, adding layers of cultural authenticity and emotional depth. This live musical element elevates the production, making the audience feel as if they are part of the unfolding drama​.

The supporting cast members are equally impressive, each bringing their characters to life with vigour and authenticity. Dean Rehman’s portrayal of Baba is particularly noteworthy. He captures Baba’s imposing presence and inner vulnerabilities, making him a complex and relatable character. Bhavin Bhatt as Assef delivers a chilling performance, embodying the character’s menace and brutality with disturbing realism.

The ensemble, including Tiran Aakel as Ali and Farid, Ian Abeyesekera as General Taheri, Christopher Glover as Rahim Khan, Aram Mardourian as Kamal, Daphne Kouma as Soraya and Stanton Wright as Wali, all contribute to the production’s richness. Their collective effort ensures that each scene is charged with emotional intensity and cultural resonance.

Under the direction of Giles Croft, the production maintains a cohesive vision that respects Khaled Hosseini’s novel while adapting it effectively for the stage. Croft’s direction ensures that the story’s emotional core is preserved, allowing audiences to connect deeply with the characters’ journeys. The collaborative efforts of the creative team, including lighting designer Charles Balfour, projection designer William Simpson, composer Jonathan Girling, movement director Kitty Winter, and fight director Philip D’Orleans, culminate in a production that is both visually and emotionally captivating​.

The Kite Runner at the Lyceum Theatre is an extraordinary theatrical experience that brings Khaled Hosseini’s poignant story to life with authenticity and emotional depth. The exceptional performances by Stuart Vincent and Yazdan Qafouri, combined with a brilliant supporting cast and innovative design elements, make this production a must-see. Whether you are familiar with the novel or new to the story, this adaptation offers a profound exploration of friendship, betrayal, and the enduring quest for redemption. The Sheffield run continues until June 8th, and it is an experience that should not be missed​.

Photography throughout from Barry Rivett for Hotshot Photography.






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