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Same Same... But Different

Same Same...  But Different

Birmingham Hippodrome

1 March 2019

Sonia Sabri Company

Reviewed by  Magdalen Gorringe and Kezia Broadhead

Sonia Sabri’s Same, Same But Different is a warm, funny and energetic family dance show aimed at ‘children aged 5 + and their adults’. I attended the show with Kezia Broadhead (Kizzy), aged 10, and this review represents both of our viewpoints.

As the title suggests, this piece explores difference as well as commonality, and certainly offers variety. The three performers, Aakanksha Rawat, Laura Vanhulle and Mickael Marso Riviere bring a feast of talent to the stage, and the show allows space for Rawat to play with kathak’s foot percussion, for Vanhulle to weave a spell of a ribbon dance and for Marso Riviere to showcase high octane breakdance (along with guitar playing!). What stood out for Kizzy though, was the humour that threads through the piece right from the first appearance of the performers, looking, in Kizzy’s words, ‘like carpets’. These ‘carpets’ are the three performers wrapped in what I can best describe as three large, differently coloured pillowcases, such that all we can see at first are three coloured rectangles slowly unfurling, rocking and teasing each other. As ‘carpets’, they are remarkably expressive despite lacking faces and limbs, and their antics had the children in the audience giggling from the start. This remained Kizzy’s favourite part of the piece, despite some of the beauty and excitement of the later sections.

The piece proceeds through a series of games and playful interactions, like a highly stylised exploration of school breaktime - perhaps reflecting the inclusion of ‘creative ideas’ from children in Birmingham’s primary schools. The two girls, Rawat and Vanhulle, recognising that they both have long hair, enjoy flinging it over their faces, tossing it luxuriantly back and forth. Short haired Riviera does his best to follow suit, making up for what he lacks in hair with sheer energy and determination, much to the disdain of the girls and the delight of the audience.  Retreating to the comfort of his ‘pillowcase’ Riviera becomes a growling monster chasing Rawat and Vanhulle round the stage before they catch him, fold him up and tame him with tickling. 

While I saw ways in which it was explored, for Kizzy, the theme of difference and belonging didn’t quite come through: she was ‘not sure what it was about’ because she was ‘concentrating on the dancing’. Perhaps explicitly knowing ‘what the piece is about’ is unimportant next to the way in which it offers children the chance to enjoy a range of different dance forms in the same way.

An inclusive and interactive show, the audience is engaged on several different levels, with the performers offering children mimed flowers and getting them involved in a call and response of ‘teen teen tha diga diga diga’. The success of this device is evident in the number of children chanting the refrain as they leave the theatre! For Kizzy though it posed a question - ‘I wish they had explained what it means’ she observed ‘because they kept saying it’.

This is a gentle, funny show and a great way to start or fuel a child’s love for dance – of all kinds.