The Kite Runner

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(17user reviews)
 (© Robert Workman)
1/5
© Robert WorkmanBen Turner
 (© Robert Workman)
2/5
© Robert WorkmanBen Turner
 (© Robert Workman)
3/5
© Robert WorkmanBen Turner and Andrei Costin
 (© Robert Workman)
4/5
© Robert WorkmanAndrei Costin and Ben Turner
 (© Robert Workman)
5/5
© Robert WorkmanBen Turner and Andrei Costin

A moving, stripped down stage version of the modern classic novel

By the end of this stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel, half the audience was crying, ovating and no doubt crying while ovating. I wasn’t quite so wowed by what is really more an efficient and emotional piece of storytelling than a great play per se. But I certainly felt a little twitch in my tear ducts. 

If you missed either the 2003 book or 2007 film: Amir (Ben Turner) is an Afghan American living in San Francisco, haunted by his past. Acting as narrator, he recalls growing up in ’70s Kabul as the shy scion of a wealthy Pashtun family, and dwells on his constant companion Hassan (Andrei Costin), his Hazara servant. Deeply ingrained class prejudice means Amir never really considers Hassan his friend – certainly not his equal. But fully grown men Turner and Costin do a fine job of conveying the pair’s sweet, innocent sort of love for each other, which bears its greatest fruit when they win one of Kabul’s notoriously competitive kite tournaments. But in its aftermath Hassan is brutally assaulted by local bully Assef (Nicholas Karimi); Amir’s guilt at not intervening bears poisonous fruit that leads to Hassan’s departure; by the time Amir and his overbearing father flee the Russian invasion, the boys are long separated.

A lot more stuff than that happens: US playwright Matthew Spangler’s unflashy adaptation does a fine job of getting it all out there in two-and-a-half hours. And director Giles Croft’s crisp production is almost thrillerishly paced, but also agreeably stripped back and restrained, its only real ornament the constant presence of tabla player Hanif Khan. If this was the National Theatre or wherever I can’t help but feel we’d be expecting a bit more from it as a play – this is no-frills stuff. But it works. And in this year of all years, it’s great to see a compassionate story about asylum seekers from the Middle East on our stage, and with a great BAME cast to boot.

Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:10
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|17
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1 of 1 found helpful

The first half was serviceable and moved the story along. It wasn't until the beginning of the second half that I realized the narrate/act, narrate/act rhythm was creating a disjointed flow that grew more tedious through the seemingly endless final act. Some of the scenes were almost cartoonish and one character in particular was totally over the top. I'm afraid I was wishing I had picked those aisle seats as I would have been out of there about an hour in to the final frame. Frankly, it's hard for me to believe that experienced fans of theater could like this production. To me (and I was one), it's a way to snag tourists scanning what's on for a fun night out. Call me cynical (many do) but I did not get a good return on my theater dollar tonight.


By far the worst production I have seen.  While the story is - of course - great, this was more like a live reading of the novel as opposed to a performance.  The set barely changed and costumes were incredibly lazy.  For example, the bully wearing Onitsuka Tiger trainers as a child.  Additionally, having grown men act as children was creepily done and more of a distraction than anything else.  Which is a shame as you could not settle down and immerse yourself in the experience. Very poor, we all left disappointed. 

tastemaker

There is a lot to praise about this production. The set was simple as it had a backdrop of sky scrapers and a large kite that would occasionally appear from above. This made the story feel a lot more natural and believable as the simplicity of the set aided the emotional content of the play as well as heightening the actors performances. 

Furthermore the music followed a similar theme of simplicity. Throughout the play a man sat at the front of the stage playing Indian Tabla drums. He in his own right was a performer and carried the play with the subtle yet powerful sounds he created on these drums. For me the interesting use of music was a highlight. Alongside the drumming the actors would create sounds with bowls and wind shakers. As The Playhouse is quite a small theater the sounds traveled far and created the melancholic tone of the whole play as well as making the whole piece more entertaining.


My major complaint would be that the main actor was not as good as the other actors which let the whole play down. I know that is harsh but I found his character unbelievable especially when he would transition between a child and an adult. I felt his narration took away from the powerful words of Khaled Hosseini's original text and thus made the play have less of an emotional impact upon the audience. It is for this reason that I have rated the production three stars as with an amazing performance this play could have gone a lot further. However the use of set and music was interesting and added to the atmosphere of the production, making it more interesting and thought provoking. 

tastemaker

I thought the first half of this play was phenomenal - it was so engaging and moving.  The only reason I am giving it four stars rather than five is because I think the second half dragged on a little and could be shortened - it’s nearly 3hrs than the 2hrs 40mins advertised.  The acting is crisp and the staging simple, which means that the focus is really on the story as it should be.  The play raises interesting moral questions and although the actions of the main character occasionally leave you feeling disgusted, you can’t help but wonder if you would have done anything differently if you were in his position.

Tastemaker

I love theatre and love plays and this is one of the best things I have seen on the West End. The book is one of my favourites, so I was a bit apprehensive when I heard they were turning it into a play. But it was absolutely fantastic, very well executed. The actors were phenomenal. I won't ruin the story, but it was very moving and had me in tears. It's on a limited season, so go get your tickets now!! Top tip- balcony is restricted view and I wouldn't recommend those seats

Tastemaker

Expect teary emotional scenes whilst watching this wonderful play adaptation of this classic well known book. This tells the utterly beautiful story of Hassan and Amir growing up in Afghanistan; the tenderness of brotherly love and a devotion and loyalty from Hassan to Amir that knows no bounds. Everything was so simple, just superb acting from the whole cast especially from Amir and Hassan. So endearing to watch and bound to tug on the heart strings. 

tastemaker

Considering recent geopolitical events, this limited West-End production is very timely. The spartan production certainly manages to sustain its intensity all the way through. Fans of the book may say that many details have been omitted but this would significantly increase the play length from its 2 1/2 hour run time. 


Despite an unconvincing American accent, Ben Turner, in the role of Amir, does a fantastic job switching between narration and engaging in dialogue with the other characters, throughout the play. In spite of Amir's repulsive character flaws, you do constantly want him to redeem himself. 


There are brief moments of levity but this is overwhelmed by a strong undercurrent of sorrow that takes place across the generations. Although there isn't a tidy conclusion, you're engaged till the very end. You also leave the theatre becoming a little bit more knowledgeable about the gruesome devastation this part of the world has witnessed.

Tastemaker

I wasn’t sure how Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel would translate onto the stage, however the harrowing tale was spectacularly brought to life by the fantastic actors. The play is simple and emotional, yet still full of intrigue and thrills.


Both the boys and men who play the part of “friends” Amir and Hassan are brilliant at portraying their warmth and love for each other. The guilt felt by Amir is clear throughout the production and the prejudice towards asylum seekers is both horrifying and relatable in the current state of affairs.


This is a heart wrenching, beautiful story with some amazingly artistic scenes (particularly with the kites). Moving and sad but still with a few moments of well placed humour. The standing ovation is well deserved. If you like the book, go see the show. Just don’t forget your tissues!


Impressive acting and a really gripping production in a beautiful old theatre that concluded with a standing ovation. A testament to its quality. The critics' reviews don't do this play justice.

tastemaker

I ordered my tickets through Time Out. An incredible and moving play with brilliant acting. The story was told very well just like the book and no major parts were left out. I enjoyed it but it was quite a long play and the seats weren't very comfortable. The actor who played Hassan particularly stood out for me - amazing! If you enjoyed the book, I'd definitely recommend seeing it in theatre. 

Staff Writer

I've not read the book nor seen the film so I didn't know what to expect exactly and didn't have many expectations, which I think was adventageous because I LOVED IT! It was so moving and even though it's prodominantly a narator dipping into action, it was still completely absorbing and utterly moving. I can imagine that if you already know the story, it may be less compelling, but for me, I was 100% gripped.

Staff Writer

The fairly harrowing book is bought to life very effectively here and there are some beautiful, simple visuals. The kite running itself is mesmerising, but the transitions between space and time work less effectively in the characters. The switch between adult narrator and the child he's portraying can be quite jarring at times, though the relationships around him, especially with the father, are beautifully handled. The simplicity of the production compliments the complexity of the story, though I was left feeling that the story lives best on the page. 


I've read the book and watched the movie, so had high expectations for this piece. Going into the show, i wasn't quite sure how this absolutely amazing story would translate to the theater stage... Needless to say, my expectations were completely surpassed and I can attetst this is an absolutely flawless piece of theater.

If you are contemplating purchasing tickets, take it from this theater connoisseur, wait no longer. A serious piece with simplistic production, yet at the same time is able to captivate the audience...

Highly recommend!


I've never read the book or seen the film so was totally naive about this coming of age tale set in Kabul with the governing upheavals in Afghanistan providing a socio-political back drop. This is an incredible piece of theatre. All the leads are excellent. It veers from being sweet, tender & funny to being menacing, scary & in one particular scene truly horrifying. I was on the edge of my seat & by the end felt an emotional wreck! Bravo- an incredible story which really touches you & is so contemporary in these days of witnessing the civilian cost of conflict, religious intolerance, racism & refuges escaping persecution. The standing ovation was so deserved.


A magical and heart wrenching play which brought my favourite book to life.

The setting and props were minimalist which allowed the magnificent acting to take centre stage. I was particularly moved by Amir and his father, and surprised that the simplicity of the production actually added to the effect of the play. I love that there was so much narrative taken directly from the book which, for me, is what really made it special. The Kite Runner brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat on more than a few occasions. It was a beautiful portrayal of this deep and magical story.

Tastemaker

An absolutely outstanding piece of theatre - certainly the best non musical I've seen on stage for a while. If you can get tickets - then do! 


Based on the best-selling novel and film of the same name, I did wonder how this would work on stage but it did. The story line is (as in the book) heart wrenching, touching and dark but it also has moments of lightness and laughter which were unexpected. 


The character of Hassan (and then Sohrab) was a highlight for me - beautifully done. 


Highly recommended.