REVIEW – Chotto Desh (The Lowry, Salford)

Chotto Desh © Richard Haughton



Chotto Desh is being performed as part of the Week 53 festival at The Lowry Theatre in Salford. The innovative festival seeks to bring together contemporary dance, visual arts, music and theatre in interactive installations, exhibitions and performances.

We were thrilled to find out that the Akram Khan Company were taking part in the festival with a new adaptation of their Olivier Award-winning DESH, suitable for children aged 7+ and their families. This is the first ever family show created by Akram Khan and I was very excited to introduce Thing 1, who loves to dance, to some of Akram Khan’s work.

Chotto Desh meaning ‘small homeland’ in Bengali, is the perfect blend of dance, clever animation and simple storytelling set to the beat of an original soundtrack. The narrative is beautifully painted and is pitched at the ideal pace and level for older children to enjoy and understand, detailing a young British man’s dreams, curiosities and memories on his journey to find home. Despite being born in London, Akram has roots in Bangladesh and the Philippines – we follow him on his journey from Britain to Bangladesh and back again; we understand his aspiration to be a dancer and we explore a magical world of memories and stories as they unfold to us.

The show is stunningly performed by Dennis Alamanos – the dynamic and detailed choreography fuses classical Indian Kathak with ballet and contemporary dance. With references to Michael Jackson, breakdancing and street dance – we can understand how popular culture influenced Akram’s childhood. Alamanos’ movement fuses perfectly with the voiceovers and dream-like moving images. Children’s mouths were agape at the enchanting animation – as Akram comes face to face with a crocodile and stares in awe at an elephant before sprinting away from an approaching tiger.

There is such fluidity with the whole performance which also aids little ones understanding and there is a perfect scattering of humour. It was pleasing to see so many children engaging with the performance and enjoying such a breathtaking piece of choreography. Chotto Desh is the perfect mix of storytelling and dance, loaded with innocence and affection, making it fitting for young minds.

Chotto Desh is a beautiful adventure for children aged 7+ and their grown-ups – thrilling, poignant and brilliant. It certainly encouraged us to think about our own home and family and the aspirations that drive us forward.

-Kristy Stott

Chotto Desh runs at the Lowry in Salford until 4 May 2016.

DESH (Lowry, Salford)

DESH © copyright – Richard Haughton

DESH means ‘homeland’ in Bengali. Akram Khan has woven a full length contemporary solo on this subject and by moving the story between British and Bangladeshi culture, he intricately juxtaposes his personal experiences with folklore and evocative memories.

Akram Khan is a gifted storyteller and an outstanding dancer and performer – perhaps the most striking aspect of this performance is the way that he can achieve such intimacy despite the performance being delivered on such a grand scale.

Khan gives a transfixing performance and draws on his comparisons of two different cultures in this outstanding collaboration with Oscar-winning visual artist Tim Yip and Award-winning composer Jocelyn Pook. DESH is essentially a quest by Khan to make sense of his parents life in Bangladesh. Born in London, Khan wants to explore this culture to help him understand himself.

I walked out of the theatre deep in thought- there is a lot to take in- Khan’s personal cyclical narrative leaves you thinking for some time afterwards. Khan punctuates his traditional storytelling with humorous references to pop culture which suggests different character traits and the way that identity and family values can change with the passing of time.

The set is visually stunning particularly the section where Khan performs behind a large gauze which is projected with moving images. It is a real treat as we watch Khan stare in awe at an elephant, float down stream in a canoe and come face-to-face with a giant crocodile. Later we see Khan caught in a relentless but beautiful monsoon, hanging upside down between glimmering silvery fabric panels and it is magical.

The whole show has such fluidity- everything flows into everything else, the props constructed by Sander Loonen are used effectively throughout the performance. There is an aeroplane engine, central to the narrative, which is used as a telephone and there are two chairs- one considerably larger than the other, which are used to frame sections of Khan’s captivating performance.

By the close of the show, Khan has managed to excavate his fathers old shirt and he puts it on. We realise that Khan is telling a story that we can all relate to, cultural changes between different generations, the feeling of loss when you no longer have your parents and the questions that you wished you had asked them.

A beautiful and magnetising piece of theatre.

DESH is at the Lowry until 14 November.

-Kristy Stott

Post first published by What’s on Stage in November 2014