The Kite Runner

The director of the stage adaptation of bestselling novel The Kite Runner says he wants to bring in diverse audiences for the tale of friendship in Afghanistan

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When Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner was published in 2003 it became an unexpected bestseller. Hosseini admitted how taken aback he had been by its success; he had imagined a novel about Afghanistan would never sell. But 14 years on, his narrative of migration, guilt and betrayal is still hailed as an important depiction of the migrant experience.

Earlier this year a stage adaptation made its debut on London’s West End and ran for two seasons, drawing in more than 100,000 people. And now the production is coming north, with dates at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Lowry Theatre in Salford and Sheffield’s Lyceum this autumn.

The story follows Amir, an Afghan-American, as he looks back on his life in Afghanistan from his new home in San Francisco. Amir recalls growing up in 1970s Kabul as the shy son of a wealthy Pashtun family, and remembers his companion Hassan – his Hazara servant. Deeply ingrained class prejudice means Amir never really considers Hassan his equal. But despite the class divide, the pair share an innocent friendship that is conveyed most strongly when they win one of Kabul’s notoriously competitive kite tournaments. In its aftermath Hassan is brutally assaulted, and Amir’s guilt at not intervening leads to Hassan’s departure. By the time Amir and his father flee the Russian invasion, the boys are long separated.

The story is a haunting tale of friendship spanning cultures and continents, and follows Amir’s journey to confront his past and find redemption. It is a story, says director Giles Croft, that continues to bear relevance.

“There are a number of reasons why this story is an important one,” says Croft. “One is because the story of Afghanistan is not going to go away, and it is an accessible way for many people to learn about the history of the country and its political complexities. It gives some understanding of why it’s such a complicated issue that remains in the news and a challenge for so many people, and not least the people of Afghanistan.

“Secondly I think that telling a story that gives dignity to Muslim culture, which I think the story does, is very important at the moment. And also it has at the heart of it the story of the immigrant experience – that narrative of migration which again is something that we are confronted with on a daily basis.

“On top of that it is woven through a story which is very emotionally engaging and deals with redemption, forgiveness, guilt and all of those are issues that we have to confront personally all the time. It is a personal story and a public and political one.”

One of the most important aspects of the show, says Croft, is ensuring that the story reaches the communities that it represents. The cast is made up of actors from a mixture of ethnicities, and Croft hopes to attract a diverse audience.

“To get the endorsement of the Muslim community is really important,” he says. “For them to feel engaged by it and to feel that it speaks truthfully about their culture. The piece is written by a guy who is Muslim and has been through a lot of this stuff – it has the integrity and honesty of that.

“To see a group of people making this work together in a way that represents the complexity of the culture that most of us now live in I think is also a very important part of the show.”

The Kite Runner is at West Yorkshire Playhouse on 19-23 Sept, The Lowry, Salford, 3-7 Oct, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, 17-21 Oct

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