What is Slava's Snowshow? That is a very big question. On paper it is a staged performance created by Russan performance artist Slava Polunin and the show has simply become a global success over the years that it has been running and has delighted audiences world-wide for many years now. On stage tonight watching it I have not answered my question "what is it?"
This show is one of those hard to describe theatrical performances. There is nothing out there to really compare it to. Yes, there are the elements that many people will have seen on YouTube and other video sources (the big bouncing balls, the snow), but these are only part of the show.
Slava's Snowshow to me is a puzzle. The show is a collection of short performances that to me seemed totally unconnected with one another and without any story thread running through them (perhaps that was as it was planned). Some of the performances are very powerful and full of pathos that silent mime clowns can do so well if they are good. One sequence with a coat rack coming to life is very clever and full of emotion without a word ever being said. Another sequence with large telephones is clever, but I wonder how many young children in the audience tonight would even recognise a dial telephone.
The thing with clowns is that you either love them or not. Clowns can delight you, make you laugh, make you feel real emotion for them, but they can also be unsettling. There can be something quite scary about clowns and I think that is partly due to the make - up. There were to me some genuinely darker elements to a few of the performances tonight as a few pieces had that slightly unreal quality to them that you get in dreams. Whether that evokes memories of a good dream or a bad dream depends on your own thoughts.
Much of this show is also possibly in the interaction between stage and audience as you really have to be in the stalls to get the full effect of the snow props, the giant balls and some of the more personal touches with the clowns (I was not in the stalls).
This show has at times some very good props, clever lighting and very good clowns on stage taking the audience through a range of emotions. It has giant balls (snowballs maybe), white cob-webs covering the audience at one point, and of course huge blasts of paper snow, but overall the performance is still a bit of a puzzle to me. Although a very strong piece of theatre, the opening sequence did puzzle me a bit for such a family orientated show though as the subject matter was very powerful. Some people of all ages around me were certainly loving this show tonight. Will you like the show, will your children like the show? Who knows, this show seems to work on a very personal emotional level for people and this show is truly in the eye of the beholder.
Review by Tom King