Review: The Kite Runner, Brighton Festival, until Saturday May 25

Ben Turner (Amir, a Pashtun) with Fashid Rokey (Hassan, a Hazara) play childhood friends in The Kite Runner.
Ben Turner (Amir, a Pashtun) with Fashid Rokey (Hassan, a Hazara) play childhood friends in The Kite Runner.

The performances were so powerful and the story so amazing, there was a standing ovation for The Kite Runner on Tuesday May 21.

In all the years I have been going to the Theatre Royal I have never seen that before - initially about half the audience stood up and started clapping, and then person by person, everyone popped up to deliver a deafening round of applause and whoops of delight.

The cast seemed visibly moved, with some of them even wiping tears from their eyes.

Having never read the best selling book by Khaled Hosseini, nor seen the successful film, I was going into this without any preconceptions.

What I can say is that this really worked. The main character and narrator took us through his childhood years growing up in Afghanistan, until the Taliban took over and his family fled to America.

The plot tackles the tension amongst families, where a parent has died or left, secrets and betrayals, and where children and fathers are left feeling like strangers to each other. It also addresses issues surrounding friendship.

In addition we learned more about the conflicts between the Pashtun (Sunni) and Hazara (Shiite, ethnic group), the crimes committed by the Taliban and the culture shock of leaving your home for America, leaving behind your position in society, your house, your job and losing many of your family members to the war.

But while there are some truly harrowing tales in The Kite Runner, despite this, there are some moments of comic relief and the promise of hope and redemption, in amongst the horror.

The stand out performances were Ben Turner (Amir) as the narrator, Emilio Doorgasingh (Baba) as Amir’s successful businessman father and Nicholas Karimi (Assef) as a sociopathic knuckle dusting toting bully.

Ben Turner’s performance is key to the play, taking us through the history of his family and his views of the relationships between the various family members. It is delivered with charm and honesty.

Emilio Doorgasingh provides light comic relief on occasions, as well as portraying a proud but distant father to Amir, while Nicholas Karimi is convincing, unnerving and thoroughly menacing as the dangerous Assef.

This is honestly the best play I have ever seen at the Theatre Royal and the best thing I have seen throughout the Brighton Festival.

It was fascinating, intricate; with plenty of plot twists to surprise you, and made for compelling viewing. If you go and see one play this year, make it this one.