Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner has gone from page to stage to create a poignant and touching theatre production. After a successful run in the West End, the play is back on tour starring original cast member David Ahmad stepping into the role of Amir.
Opening at the Nottingham Playhouse in 2013, David understudied the role of Amir, but after going on as the lead in London at the Playhouse Theatre the producers were instantly hooked and cast him as the lead role in the UK tour.
Telling the haunting story of friends Hassan and Amir in Kabul, Afghanistan during the 70s, the play follows the story of Amir from childhood to adulthood and his struggle with redemption after a tragic incident occurs in his childhood. David portrays the role of Amir at an older age now living in San Fransisco, looking back on the story as it unfolds and narrating it to the audience. “It is so similar to the book,” he said. “So people who read the book will understand the narrated character which was lost in the film, but has been put back into the play.”
David is on stage throughout the entirety of the show, which is both physically and mentally demanding. “Mentally, lots of people ask how do you manage to do that every day eight times a week. Because I don’t leave the stage I don’t have time to think about it, I don’t have to be concentrating on it all the time,” he explained. “I am not going off and on during the show, I am always in the moment. When you’re doing it you’re on a rollercoaster. You step out on stage, turn around, face the audience, say the first line and you’re off.”
Using theatrical elements to bring the story to life, David expressed that he feels the stage show is a lot tighter than the book. He said: “We couldn’t do the whole 400 pages, we had to condense it down to 2 hours so it solves it in a tighter, more concise way.” He believes his character as the narrator is key as it keeps that beautiful storytelling we find when reading the book. “Obviously when you’re reading the book you’re conjuring up the emotion and using that to fill in the details. I think the fact it is a narrator telling you the story adds a little bit more,” he explained.
Talking about the powerful themes in the story, David mentions that he thinks it all centres around making mistakes. “There is a lot about redemption, there is stuff we all feel guilty about and have to live with and you have to forgive yourself for doing bad things,” he said. What he enjoys the most about the part is being able to directly address the audience and break down that barrier. “It’s like an intimate conversation with the audience, It really brings them in more and allows them to go on the journey with Amir.”
“I think one of the reasons the story is so popular is that there are elements in it that will touch everybody, whether it is betraying a friend, seeking the approval of family, losing a parent or falling in love, all of these things are universal.”
Describing it as a dream part, David expressed how it was his most emotional part yet. “It runs the gamut of all the emotions, it is a massive and really interesting character to get your teeth into as an actor,” he said. “Lots of people’s initial opinions of Amir is that they don’t really like him, so it’s really brave to get into the character and then try and find ways that make him sympathetic.”
Despite being set in a different country and during a different time, David really believes it still holds so much relevance today. “The idea of immigrants leaving Afghanistan and migrant populations in other countries is still so relevant to what is happening right now,” he explained. The play touches on politics, but he stressed that it’s the fact it’s a human story is what makes it resonate. “I don’t think we can lose touch or get bored of hearing enough stories about people and stories that reinvigorate our own humanity. I think it’s important right now as there is a lot of bad things going on and it’s nice to have stories with an uplifting message,” he said.
The moving production pulls on the heartstrings but also makes you think. When asking what David thinks the audience leave with after the show, he replied: “I believe that people will feel like there is hope and that whatever bad things have happened, there is always hope.”
The Kite Runner is on at The Lowry in Salford from the 3rd to the 7th of October, tickets and information can be found here.