23rd Jun2017

The Kite Runner (Theatre)

by timbaros

The Kite Runner Playhouse Theatre Amir (David Ahmad) Hassan (Andrei Costin) Photo Irina ChiraThe beautiful story of two young Afghani men returns to the London stage in a production that will break your heart.

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling 2003 novel, was turned into an acclaimed 2007 movie and recently won rave reviews at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre, is back again and now paying at The Playhouse Theatre. Its story resonated so much with theatregoers, and after sellout crowds in its original run, it’s been granted to fly again in a limited 8-week run.

The Kite Runner is the story of true friendship, and also true betrayal. David Ahmad is Amir, who lives with his wealthy father Baba (Emilio Doorgasingh) in Kabul, Afghanistan. They employ Baba’s long-time servant Ali (Ezra Faroque Khan), along with his son Hassan (Andrei Costin). Both Amir and Hassan lost their mothers, so Amir and Hassan have become close, even though they both come from different classes of society. They’ve formed a bond with each other and especially love to fly kites together. Hassan ends up becoming Amir’s kite runner – he basically retrieves the kite after knowing where it’s going to fall. The young men are practically inseparable, especially when the local thug Assef (Bhavin Bhatt) threatens them perhaps because he is jealous of their close friendship. But one day, after a kite competition, Hassan is captured by Assef, who proceeds to taunt and then rape him. But it’s Amir who witnesses the whole thing – he doesn’t even step in to help, and it’s a guilt that he carries around with him, enough so that he attempts to have his father get rid of Hassan and Amir. This is when the story goes in a different direction and takes us on a journey to America where Amir and Baba eventually find themselves after leaving war torn Afghanistan. Amir eventually settles down in San Francisco with a wife, but he’s torn with guilt over what he did or did not do for Hassan. And this guilt has him trace his steps back to Afghanistan in the hopes of finding Hassan and to rekindle the relationship that they had when they were boys. But there’s more in store for him than what he bargains for.

The Kite Runner doesn’t need any sort of magic wand or razzle dazzle to tell it’s story – it’s the story in itself that is strong enough to hold the audiences attention. We see the beautiful friendship between Hassan and Amir that is eventually shattered and when the story takes it to another direction we feel Amir’s pain and heartbreak and guilt and we hope the characters will eventually find happiness, though deep down we know that’s not going to be the case. Matthew Spangler has successfully adapted the book for the stage (again) while Director Giles Croft works with an excellent acting ensemble with a very minimalist set as he excellently guides his actors to portray the characters very beautifully and emotionally.

02nd Jul2016

1984 (Theatre)

by timbaros

Andrew Gower in 1984 Credit Manuel Harlan.jpgGeorge Orwell’s classic book 1984 was not always going to be easily transferable to the stage. But a new production of it has just opened at the Playhouse Theatre.

If you’ve ever read the book (either in school or for leisure), you will know the story. Written in 1949, when the year 1984 seemed like a long way off, Orwell wrote about a world where, simply, big brother is watching everything you do, everywhere you go. It’s like the present day North Korea where the government dictates how and where you will live your life, but it takes it to a bit more extreme in that anyone with an individual thought or who speaks bad about the government is punished, it’s a totalitarian state.

The protagonist of the show is Winston Smith (bravely acted by Andrew Gower). He knows and understands that the world he lives in is bad, cruel, harsh. And he really hates it. He has put his thoughts onto paper, an illegal act if there ever was one. But there’s lots more to this complicated story, on the surface and underneath, and to explain it would be to write a very long explanation.

But in summary, Smith has an affair with Julia (Catrin Stewart) and it all goes wrong for both of them. You see, they thought that a secret bedroom they were shown by a shopkeeper was free of surveillance, but it wasn’t. They’re rustled up and taken to prison where they are interrogated, and the shopkeeper turns out to be a spy for the government. Smith is labeled a ’thought criminal’ and is tortured, and comes face to face with his self-confessed worst nightmare – rats.

A production of 1984 was produced by Nottingham’s Headlong Theatre company before embarking on a UK tour in 2013 and then had a sell out run at the Almeida Theatre. It’s a show that’s hard to watch. The story, and characters, are a bit complicated and not very well understood; we seen them but don’t really know who they are. And perhaps that’s the point. But it takes shock theatre to all new levels with lots of blood in the torture scene (the woman next to me had her eyes closed), and the use of very bright strobe lights used intermittently during the play which is very jaring. But it’s Chloe Lamford’s sets that keep ‘1984’ in it’s time period – it’s a minimalist world where total surveillance is common. Credit goes to Directors Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan for putting together a show from a book that’s been described as complicated at best. And Gower gives an amazing performance as the literally tortured soul who is punished for his thoughts.

If you can stomach a production of 1984, then this is well worth the effort. If you’re looking for something a bit lightheated, then this show is not the show for you.