By Alan O’Riordan
There are as many ways to stage a novel as there are novels that have been staged. But the best of them, such as Corn Exchange’s recent A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, for instance, create their own dramatic universes. Others ruthlessly distil the longer form into the time and space allowed on the stage.
Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of The Kite Runner, in a production here by the Nottingham Playhouse, does not pass either test, and remains a workmanlike rendition of Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 favourite. It fails to transcend its origins, relying too much on cliche-filled narration, and is too long to boot.
Spangler is faithful to Hosseini’s story of betrayal and redemption, as told by Raj Ghatak’s bright, if facile, Amir. He enjoys a privileged upbringing in 1970s Kabul, before the Soviet invasion forces him and his father to flee to the US. The opening scenes portray Amir’s boyhood friendship with his family’s servant boy, Hassan. Guilt, cowardice, and secrecy spark a betrayal, and Hassan’s saintly sacrifice. Years later, Amir has a chance to atone, uncovering a family secret as he does so.
What is on paper a book-club-friendly page turner becomes on stage a plot summary. Giles Croft’s production is enlivened by music, movement, and solid performances, but finally runs out of energy, as the saga moves through the generations towards a hopeful, if clunkingly religious, ending.
Fans of the book will find an enjoyable revisit. The uninitiated might wonder what all the fuss was about.