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Kite Runner at Oxford Playhouse

Posted: 19th February 2018

Kr1Playwright Matthew Spangler who adapted the award winning novel ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini, and personally knows the author, visited from San Francisco, California to oversee this run of his play, following the outstanding West End run.  In his intimate and informatively entertaining pre show talk in the circle of the auditorium at the Oxford playhouse, he enlightened the A Level English literature groups, among others of Oxford’s literati, on Hosseini’s retrospective views of his first novel.

He explained how changes that had been made in the play reflected changes that in hindsight Hosseini had explained he would make in the novel.  Most notably he explained that the half German, half Afghan character Assef, who mercilessly bullies Amir and Hassan in the novel, is pure Afghani in the play.  Based on a real boy in Hosseini’s childhood in Kabul, far too much has been read into the cultural identity of this bully, when actually it was incidental fact.  More important of course is the sickening horror that befalls Hassan at the hands of Assef, as this acts as a metaphor for the tortuous history of Afghanistan from the 1970s, and was of particular interest to our pupils.

His insights into his involvement with the rehearsal process, liaising with the director were enlightening, but clearly his main purpose for offering the pre-show talk was to approach the topic of refugees, a potent political concern of our times, and one he still feels very strongly about.  Hosseini of course was a refugee in San Francisco himself, and since the 1970s, extremisim, brutality, terrorism and war have forced millions to leave this once beautiful country, and tens of thousands have lost their lives to these tragic circumstances.

The haunting tale of ‘The Kite Runner’, spanning cultures and continents, of friendships forged and torn apart, and ultimately following one man’s redemptive journey was beautifully yet painfully portrayed, and as the girls put it ‘could not have been done better’.

The tabla music of Hanif Khan, on stage throughout the performance evoked the otherness of the culture perfectly, a culture that subtly emanates from the pages of Hosseini’s novels through sensory descriptions.  This presentation of Afghanistan’s tortuous history, was an excellent representation and resource for aspects of the girls A Level text, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, also by Hosseini, and a wonderful way for them to feel noble about spending an evening at one of the most powerfully entertaining dramatic evenings at the Playhouse this year.

Bridget Sherlock, Head of English