Edinburgh International Festival: Chotto Xenos

Marie brennan

four stars

At the 2018 Edinburgh International Festival, Akram Khan performed his latest solo creation: XENOS. He delivered a visceral reminder of the horrors of war and – most notably – of the role played (and often forgotten afterwards) by the thousands of Indian Sepoys who fought for Britain in World War I.

Now, director Sue Buckmaster has distilled the main themes of that original work into Chotto Xenos, a 50-minute work aimed primarily at younger audiences – it aired as part of this year’s FEI, which can be viewed at home. Even though “chotto” translates to “small,” Buckmaster did not shy away from the big issues that run through Khan’s choreography, and in Kennedy Junior Muntanga’s solo performance, the destructive and unnecessary nature of wars is conveyed with great emphasis. intensity of emotion. intelligence and a nuanced physicality that transforms from humorous games to heavy and fragmented terror under fire from the trenches.

Animations and projections give snippets of context to Mutanga’s course, gung ho playground battles – fist fights, imaginary shots, etc. die in distant foreign fields. The numbers float on the backdrop, watched over by Muntanga who himself is soon under orders and walks in clouds of mustard gas. There is an economy of props, but a wealth of imagination in the way they are used – most notably when an old gas mask becomes a puppet puppy, snuggling up Muntanga’s face and offering warmth and affection. he needs so much. Perhaps watching this as a movie takes the viewer away from the searing immediacy of the action, but Chotto Xenos remains a poignant and powerful experience nonetheless.

Darcy J. Skinner

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