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Akram Khan’s Chotto Desh review at Sadler’s Wells – ‘magical and heart-warming’

Akram Khan in Chotto Desh at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Richard Haughton
Akram Khan in Chotto Desh at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Richard Haughton

Chotto Desh is the adaptation for children and their families of Akram Khan’s award-winning solo, Desh. Meaning “small homeland” Chotto Desh is Khan’s semi-autobiographical story of a young man who dreams of becoming a dancer.

A phone conversation with a call centre, answered by a 12-year-old operator, leads our protagonist on a journey through his childhood memories. Voiceovers relate the story as we leave Britain for the chaotic streets of Bangladesh and the imaginary forest of his childhood tales. The dancer’s clear gestures interpret the words in a way that is easily accessible for children and adults alike.

Through dance, props, sound and animations the characters of Chotto Desh are playfully brought to life. Painting a face onto the top of his head and tipping it towards the audience, the dancer becomes Khan’s father – a man short in stature. A mischievous young Khan likewise delights the young audience with his charming refusal to sit still on his miniature white chair. He just wants to dance and can only be calmed by his grandmother’s tales. Animations, like illustrations lifted from the pages of a children’s book, give life to the enchanted forest of her story. Stepping behind a gauze screen and into this imaginary world the dancer encounters elephants and climbs to the treetops.

Chotto Desh combines dance and theatre to magical effect. Its heart-warming story of our connections to the past, to family and, most importantly, the need to find your own path, will captivate an audience of any age.

Verdict
A magical introduction to dance and theatre for children and their families
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