Opting for simplicity is a bold tack, particularly when adapting a bestselling book, with a critically-acclaimed film version to boot. And yet resisting the temptation to overdo it or reinvent the wheel in a manner of speaking, is exactly why Matthew Spangler’s stage adaptation of The Kite Runner hits the mark.

It boils down to the essential: a beautifully-told story of friendship and atonement against the backdrop of political upheaval in Afghanistan (from the Soviet invasion to the rise of the Taliban and the fall-out from 9/11); a story at once topical and hugely poignant, perhaps even more so thanks to the absence of fancy sets, tricks and distractions.

Amir is from a privileged Pashtun (Sunni) background while his servant Hassan is Hazara (Shi’a). These accessory yet ingrained labels do little to dampen the friendship between the inseparable pair; until they fall foul of local thug Assef. Hassan is subjected to a terrible ordeal, only compounded by Amir’s subsequent rejection and betrayal.

David Ahmad delivers a grand performance, switching seamlessly between the adult Amir of the present – a man riddled with guilt and remorse at his childhood betrayal – and the naive young boy of the past, joshing around his father’s home, blissfully impervious to the rumblings of political trouble outside its walls.

While the sight of a middle-aged man playing a 12-year-old and roughhousing is a tad odd at first, Ahmad soon draws us in with his warm and easy manner. He certainly is a gifted chameleon.

Jo Ben Ayed too is impressive and extremely touching as unquestionably loyal Hassan. His self-effacing demeanour, submissive, slightly stooped stance, brought me on the verge of tears more than once. One standout scene perfectly encapsulates his boundless devotion: as Amir takes his frustration out on his friend slapping and punching him, Hassan asks, barely above a whisper: “Are you feeling better now?”

The use of a live tabla player pounding away an atmospheric soundtrack on the edge of the stage is truly inspired.

As for Barney George’s deft design it is the glue that holds this tight production together. Deceptively simple, the set is dominated by a bifurcated kite on to which light dances and images are projected. There are no flying kites, though the tell-tale whir is cleverly recreated with spinning spindles by the ensemble.

Heartrending, brimming with hope and perfectly paced, this is a brilliant show all around. Superbly acted, and crafted, from star to finish.

The Kite Runner is on at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday.