Ben Turner on his role in The Kite Runner

Ben Turner as Amir

Ben Turner as Amir

First published in Stage
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Casualty’s Ben Turner explains to Katherine MacAlister why The Kite Runner is the most challenging part he has ever played

If you’ve read The Kite Runner you’ll know what a high octane drama it is. If not you should get down to the Oxford Playhouse next week because it’s so good it’s been brought back by popular demand.

And heading up the impressive cast is none other than Casualty’s Ben Turner.

Its a harrowing, traumatic, beautiful, brutal and ultimately human story that breathes life into the bones of the news stories we see on TV about Afghanistan, all seen though the eyes of a small boy and an older man, the narrator.

For Ben, who plays both parts, it’s the role of a lifetime and one that takes up all his emotional and physical energy.

“In terms of my career it’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to do,” he says “It’s a very physical show, I’m not going to lie, the show really hurts, but the story is so amazing that it never gets the better of me. But don’t get the violins out, I knew what I was signing up for.”

Brought up in Reading, Ben’s mother hails from Iran, but Ben says the casting net was thrown far and wide, and having auditioned, they cast him the very next day: “I’m a lucky guy, but the story is the star of the show and it’s one I really wanted to tell because it moved me incredibly.”

Having performed The Kite Runner for an initial short run, the tour has just been extended and is coming to Oxford: “I had to think long and hard about it because I’d been asked to do a TV series, but it was my part wasn’t it? And a character that I really cherish. In the end it wasn’t a hard decision and I haven’t regretted it once.”

To survive the tour and the eight shows a week Ben is trying to look after himself better, but is spurred on by the audience’s reactions: “I hear people sobbing in the audience every night but they also really listen and I’ve never heard listening like it, it’s so quiet in there and when people leave they feel that they have been on this amazing journey. So while it’s the biggest challenge of my profession, you just have to trust the audience to go on it with you.”

As for what’s next, Ben is holding out for The Kite Runner to go to the West End, but with film credits like Hollywood blockbuster 300 – Rise Of An Empire under his belt, in which he played Eva Green’s right hand man, he’s got lots of strings to his bow.

“Long may it continue,” he chuckles.

“But what I want is for people to come and see The Kite Runner. It’s very current, and as well as dealing with betrayal, love and revenge, it also examines immigration, the Taliban and Afghanistan, words you normally only read about in the paper.”

SEE IT
The Kite Runner, based on Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel and film, comes to the Oxford Playhouse from Monday, September 15-20. Call 01865 305305 or see oxfordplayhouse.com

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