Review: Chotto Desh, Sadlers Wells

In a cross-cultural world, it can be hard to define what or where is home. Is home where you are born? Where you live in this moment? Or is it where your roots are? And what does that even mean in 2015 when cultures are merging together? Akram Khan Company’s Chotto Desh at Sadlers Wells celebrates what makes us who we are – the stories that define us and the stories that we have inherited through our culture – in a modern world that can be very confusing and blurry. Collaborating with Moko Dance and director Sue Buckmaster (Theatre-Rites), Akram Khan transforms simple storytelling into through beautiful choreography and dreamlike animation. This collaboration makes for an exciting mix of dance and theatre that is simple but touching in its warmth and innocence.

‘Chotto Desh’ means small homeland. To a young British man this place is hard to define. With roots in Bangladesh and the Philippines but an address in England, it’s not so easy to define where you’re actually from. Journeying from Britain to Bangladesh and back again we follow his dreams of becoming a dancer, exploring a myriad of memories and stories weaved into pure magic as the forest come alive in his mind. We jump in time, place and reality but with such beauty and charm it does feel like a personal dream.

The timing is slick and the performance has just the right balance between movement and realism, abstraction and simplicity. Nicholas Ricchini dances with such energy and grace he transforms the space itself, making the movement the storyteller, the embodiment what creates the images in our minds. He responds to the voiceovers and animation with such precision and curiosity it pulls you to the end of your seat. The choreography is masterly organic, worldly and impulsive, and blended with the mythical charm of the animation it’s like a midnight glimpse of the Jungle Book. As always Sue Buckmaster feels the pulse of a young audience and keeps them engaged throughout, whether it’s being fascinated by the possibilities of movement in space, the enchanting backdrop and light or a flicker of humour.

This is a brilliant little adventure for children – and their grownups – merging stories and reality, introducing them to the magic of dance. As a solo performance, it leaves a lot to the imagination – but with the skill it’s performed the images become very vivid in our minds and encourage us to think about our own stories and home.

Chotto Desh is playing Sadlers Wells until 31 October. For more information and tickets, see the Sadlers Wells website.