REVIEW: The Kite Runner, Mayflower, Southampton, until Saturday, April 28.

Just a few weeks ago, we had a massive helicopter hovering over the stage. Last week, we watched the sinking of the Titanic.

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner

This week, we are watching theatre in its purest form – a form shorn of the spectacular effects at which the Mayflower excels, a form which puts the focus squarely on the story-telling.

And wow, it packs a punch.

With the barest of sets and the minimum of props, a superb cast delivers a remarkable tale, spanning war, spanning continents and spanning generations – a tale of young friendship cut short by cruelty and cowardice; a tale of astonishing loyalty on the one side and a quest for redemption on the other.

Holding it all together is an outstanding central performance from Raj Ghatak as Amir, narrator of his own story and key participant in a heart-breaking tale of friendship gone wrong and one man’s bid to find “a way to be good again”.

Ghatak carries it all magnificently and movingly, beautifully supported by Jo Ben Ayed in the dual roles of his childhood friend Hassan and… well, let’s not give too much away.

Khaled Hosseini’s celebrated novel works so well on the stage because adapter Matthew Spangler and director Giles Croft never lose sight of the fact that it’s a play they are delivering… and by keeping it sparse, by keeping it simple and by throwing so much back onto the audience to imagine, they make us complicit in a truly-memorable night at the theatre.

But goodness, what a performance from Ghatak. Does he ever actually leave the stage? It will be a while before he leaves our minds.

Phil Hewitt