Memories of childhood come with heady filters — bright and beautiful snapshots marred by sparks of shame. And so it is with the Kite Runner, a tale from the point of view of Amir, an Afghani-US immigrant who must return to the scene of his own disgrace — the moment that he did not come to his friend Hassan’s aid, the second that played fulcrum of change to a friendship, a life, and in Amir’s case, his sense of self. Based on the internationally-best-selling book of the same name by Khaled Hosseini, the play — running at Dubai Opera on February 27-29 — is a cathartic recollection of events by Amir even as the audience is shepherded into a fractured but hope-filled future.
David Ahmad, who plays the central character Amir, says the play succeeds where the movie falls short. “Having a narrative character really means the audience are really a part of the action as well. So I think that’s quite a key thing about the play. When I’m playing Amir I’m actually about to talk to the audience and chat with people and connect. I enjoy it a lot and I think it makes a big difference, as well,” he explains.
The story is close to Ahmad’s heart, not just because it’s a powerful rendering of the book — he explains he’s grown up with people similar to the characters in the book. “My uncle Shahaab reminds me a lot of baba — you know, a big forceful personality. I wasn’t his son but he was always great with me. My uncle Rasheed is another example — giving out sweets to everyone,” says the actor.
But then how do you keep larger-than-life characters as described by him, as created by Hosseini from the point of view of a 12-year-old, from turning into caricatures on a live platform? “All those characters are in essence Amir’s recollection of the characters, so in a sense they are not always to be represented perfectly real… but we’ve got a really great cast who are bringing a life and a warmth to the characters — you have to bring your own experiences and navigate it that way,” he says.
As with any well-known work — and with a book, movie and many years on top-selling lists under its belt this is a very, very well-known story — a mountain of issues seems to form itself.
When putting the Matthew Spangler adaptation on stage, explains director Giles Croft, the things he had to keep in mind were: “Finding [a] style for the work that meant that the story was told truthfully and powerfully and theatrically but at the same time theatricality didn’t get in the way of the story. And I guess the other thing — to allow the company, the actors involved, to be part of the experience.
“The final challenge has really been to integrate all the elements of it — because there’s a sort of musical accompaniment, obviously there’s the acting, there’s a series of light and sound effects to draw all those elements together to create a very, very unified theatrical experience,” he adds.
Oh, and there are kites. “One of the first things our designer introduced us to as an idea was indoor kites and they are things of extraordinary beauty. You can have them made to order and you can fly them inside — I would recommend them to everybody,” says Croft.
Just follow these into a time gone by, into the memory of a Kabul unblemished by bloodshed and a bruised childhood. When winning at kite flying was all that children needed to worry about.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to see ‘Kite Runner’, which runs at Dubai Opera from February 27-29, start at Dh250.