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Review: The Kite Runner at Newcastle Theatre Royal
What's on
June 2024
Reading time 4 Minutes

Newcastle Theatre Royal is the penultimate venue on The Kite Runner's UK tour

We joined the audience when this award-winning adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's novel returned to the region this summer.

With themes of family, friendship and betrayal weaved amongst Afghanistan’s turbulent history, The Kite Runner is a powerful story following a man’s journey to confront his past. Having never read Khaled Hosseini's award-winning novel, I’m experiencing this tale with fresh eyes and ears. Published in 2003, it became an instant bestseller, so I’m expecting great things.

Shortly after we take a seat, and before the lights dim, Hanif Khan, a tabla player sits cross-legged in the corner of the stage and begins to play his instruments. He, occasionally accompanied by cast members playing other instruments, plays traditional music throughout the show to evoke varying emotions. In the interval we discover that Hanif has been the resident tabla player on The Kite Runner since 2013, which explains why he doesn’t miss a beat.

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When the lights dim we’re transported to Afghanistan where the story unfolds against the backdrop of the Soviet invasion, the exodus of refugees and the rise of the Taliban regime. Whilst the country is facing war, two best friends, Hassan and Amir, are torn apart. Amir is our narrator and speaks directly to the audience throughout whilst moving seamlessly in and out of the action. We learn about Amir’s father (and Hassan’s father, who is his servant) and why Hassan and Amir are such close friends. Then we’re told Amir’s story.

He’s almost asking for forgiveness as we learn how a series of events (all stemming from an incident after a kite flying tournament) had tragic consequences. In a kite tournament pieces of crushed glass would be fixed to kite strings and the idea is to get your kite above an opponent’s, then slash their line. Those too poor to have their own kites are the kite runners (who retrieve the losing one as it comes down) – that’s Hassan. Flying kites was banned during the Taliban's time in control of the country in 1996.

The set is beautiful and cleverly used to conceal a particularly dark scene. There are two very difficult scenes with the second, in act two, taking place off stage. Props, colourful lighting and very subtle set changes allow the audience to travel from Afghanistan to America. There’s so much to unpack from this hard-hitting and heartbreaking story, from childhood bullies to the realities of time during the war and a new love interest, that we’re unsure how it’s all going to fit into just over two hours, but the narration is always clear and we never lose track. Each and every cast member is precise in their movements and lines but we’re particularly drawn to Yazdan Qafouri who plays Hassan, then later Hassan’s son Sohrab – it’s his first appearance in the production but you’d never be able to tell.

Without giving any spoilers away if you too haven’t read the book, the last 20 minutes of this play are tense and shocking. The Kite Runner is a thought-provoking story you’ll never forget and you won’t want to miss your chance to see this tour’s penultimate shows.

The Kite Runner plays Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday 29th June. Tickets can be purchased at or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

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