Review: Dancer Akram Khan’s Chotto Desh

By December 15, 2015

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.


Photo credit: Richard Haughton

The title of Akram Khan’s scintillating show for a solo performer, Chotto Desh, means literally ‘small homeland’. It consists of dance, a dense soundscape and vivid childlike animations to conjure up Khan’s dreams and memories of the UK and Bangladesh. It begins with a transglobal phone conversation with a 12-year-old call centre operative. This triggers recollections of the chaotic streets of Bangladesh with the dancer mimicking homeless beggars, policemen directing traffic and angry dogs to be traversed by the young Khan.

Contrasted with this are visions of an imaginary enchanted forest from his grandmother’s fairy tales which is beautifully depicted in the animation. We also encounter the adolescent Khan in a conflicted relationship with his father. He refuses to sit still on a tiny chair, preferring to restlessly writhe around in the early forms of dance he is later to become master of.

In this quest for identity his mother is a mediator and near the end of the piece the same chair appears huge, symbolic of the adult world he is now being forced to face. This is a wonderfully evocative and powerful show that had both the young audience and their families enraptured. It has a kind of strange catharsis and is remarkably immersive and immensely moving.

As seen at Riley Theatre, Northern School for Contemporary Dance, Leeds.