A stunning performance of a literary beauty, telling the tragedy of the conflict in Afghanistan through the eyes of three generations of women.
The gorgeous sequel to Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is a beautiful piece of literature discussing how women can become trapped in war torn countries and the specific and traumatic issues women faced in Afghanistan post-Russian occupation. As a novel, this is a masterpiece, and the play did not disappoint in any way.
A Thousand Splendid Suns tells the story from three generations of women and the challenges they face, creating a multi-faceted and heart wrenching vision of all the hideous atrocities women faced with the rise of the Taliban. The time before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York was tumultuous for those both home and away, but it is easy for the West to ignore the conflict and heartache that occurred at the other end of the situation. This play refuses to let us look away from the total desolation that Afghani men and women faced.
The best part of this story on stage for me by far was the set. The story and space at the NST could have lent itself to a black box set and stage, but instead an elaborate and detailed desert scene with a variety of raises and hatches, making it fundamental to the storyline, and it created mystery and suspense, while also making the far off story more believable. Complimenting this beautiful set designed by Ana Ines Jabares-Pita, were the costumes and music, which were rich and culturally accurate, further transporting us to a stunning place experiencing atrocities we cannot understand, but are able to see on this incredible stage.
With a cast of only nine actors, the amount of characters they played was incredible, each one fully formed and explored. Sujaya Dasgupta as Laila was a force to be reckoned with. She showed the different ages that the story explores of her character flawlessly, and any slightly wooden issues with performance will be ironed out over their run. This was a similar comment on Amina Zia as Mariam. She was excellent in some of the more emotional scenes, but the more general scenes felt a bit stiff and tricky.
Presenting a play about western destruction in the east was always going to be challenging, and using Arabic and Farsi terms from the novel brought an extra dimension to the performance. This alongside the chronology of the play going along the lines of the history of the timeline of Afghani history, makes it all the more realistic and authentic.
Playing an abusive character will not be easy for any actor and Pal Aron did the best he could with the character of Rasheed, with comedy surrounding his lighter parts of the play, making the more aggressive and terrifying parts of the play all the more shocking. This created an excellent juxtaposition to Wales Akhtar, who played Tariq and a variety of other characters. He was soft and kind, but was slightly wooden at some points. Again, hopefully this will improve across the run.
From cultural accuracy, to a stunning stage and beautiful acting crating this believable family, I would urge anyone to see this play.
A Thousand Splendid Suns ran from June 25th to July 6th at NST City in Southampton.