WARM desert sunlight bathes the multiple levels of Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s sunburnt set.

We are in Kabul, Afghanistan - a country whose history is almost inseparable from the misery of war.

Khaled Hosseini’s award winning novel, adapted for the stage by Ursula Rani Sarma, focuses on the experience of Afghan women.

Oppressed by the country’s violent struggles for power - Russian, Mujahideen, Taliban - they are also forced to accept the male dominated culture that all too often reduces them to second class citizens.

Orphaned by a catastrophic bomb blast, fourteen year old Laila is offered marriage by her rescuer and local businessman, Rasheed.

His apparently good intentioned gesture, however, soon turns to one of physical and psychological control, while the bitter jealousy of Mariam, his first wife, adds to Laila’s misery.

Roxana Gilbert directs this complex tale that ultimately gives us a new perspective on war and survival.

Sujaya Dasgupta as Laila, Amina Zia as Mariam, and Pal Aron as an increasingly oppressive Rasheed, sit at the centre of the story - the women forced to conform to increasingly restrictive demands, especially those imposed by the Taliban.

But ultimately this is a story of hope, where the relationship between Laila and Mariam becomes one of mutual support as they recognise the common enemy they have in Rasheed, and the traditional values he represents. As a play, it opens a human window on a conflict that all too often has become distant and alien.

Until Saturday June 15

Box Office: 0191 230 5151


Laurence Sach