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Ian Waller reviews a quite stunning piece of thoughtful and genuinely moving theatre

The Kite Runner, playing until 23 March at the Theatre Royal in Bath, is quite simply one of the most outstanding theatrical productions that I have seen for a very long time. I’ll be absolutely honest – I knew nothing about the story before last night and was only really going as my wife had read the book and loved it.

However, as the final curtain fell, I left the theatre genuinely moved by the amazing telling of an incredible story that simply can’t fail to affect anyone privileged enough to secure a seat.

The Kite Runner tells the story of two friends, the show’s narrator and central character, Amir (Stuart Vincent) and his best friend Hassan (Yazdan Qafouri), who live together in Afghanistan in the grounds of Amir’s father, Baba’s (Dean Rehman) grand house – although for Amir it’s in the luxury of the main house, while Hassan shares a servant’s shack with his father Ali (Tiran Aakel).

Stuart Vincent and Yazdan Qafouri with Dean Rehman and Christopher Glover (Photo Barry Rivett)

Despite the difference in wealth and power, the boys love each other’s company and enjoy nothing more than exploring the grounds and the excitement of the kite flying contests, with Amir excelling at the controls and Ali the expert runner who sets off to recover the defeated shapes that fall in battle.

However, when Ali suffers at the hands of the local hoodlum while a terrified Amir can only look on, paralysed by fear, the friendship falls apart, just as their home country descends into war, invasion and the terrible rise of Taliban control.

What develops is beautifully told tale of guilt, shame, friendship and forgiveness across a backdrop of fear and societal hierarchy. With a simple set that cleverly uses the same silhouetted backdrop to show the outline of rural Afghanistan and the skyscrapers of San Francisco, the story develops across the years, taking Amir from the innocent and traumatised child to finding new purpose in America.

Throughout the performances of full of emotion and humanity – of the best and worst kinds. In the lead role, Stuart Vincent revisits his character’s childhood with real skill, with the bearded adult actor easily taking on the ways of an innocent boy playing with his friend. Similarly, Yazdan Qafouri as Hassan is every inch the loyal and loving friend, utterly dedicated to his friend and uncaring about the chasm in class that divides them.

Dean Rehman, Sulin Hasso, Stuart Vincent and Daphne Kouma (Photo Barry Rivett)

Around them, Dean Rehman shows how Baba’s traditional pride battles with an impatience and lack of understanding for his son, and yet you can’t help but admire the character of the man and genuinely care when illness strikes him.

The Kite Runner is also a story that opens a window on an Afghanistan before the horrors of the Russian invasion and the rise of the Taliban, and how the terrors that follow destroyed a society that, let’s be honest, wasn’t that far from the Western freedoms that we enjoy today. And yet in no time, it was torn away, leaving the lucky victims to escape to scratch a new life elsewhere, while those left behind fair far worse.

Ultimately, The Kite Runner is about the relationships that form of the basis of the story, intertwined with feelings of tradition, service, shame and duty. The result it genuinely touching and intensely powerful. There were times when the story left the sold-out audience wide-eyed and rapt, completely given over to the story that while told from such a distance in time and geography, remains relevant and close.

The Kite Runner appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 18th to Saturday 23rd March. To book tickets contact the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or visit