Slava’s Snow Show has returned to The Festival Theatre Edinburgh after a gap of three years (last here December 2014) and, as last time, it has brought with it a mixture of emotional magic and despair as our yellow clown and green clowns invite us into their at times very surreal world of exploration of the inner self and the little things in the outer world that make it magical.
Slava’s Snow Show is one of many large scale theatrical spectaculars from Russian performance artist Vyacheslav Ivanovich “Slava” Polunin and since its creation in 1994 the show has delighted audiences around the world. Part of the huge global success of Slava’s Snow Show is probably due to the fact that there are no language barriers here, this is a story told with very few words, instead relying on the skill of the performers to express their emotions in body language and movement. Slava’s Snow Show is a testament to Slava Polunin’s own genius as a performance artist who explores the inner self , and perhaps this is why he is so popular…there is a little bit of Slava in every one of us, we all feel his pain at times. The format of the show of course also takes us back to those wonderful silent films of yesterday (which again found a worldwide audience) and great performers like Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Tati.
As last time though watching this show, I am honestly not exactly sure where the target audience is for this show as there are elements here that for me are definitely not for children (like the opening sketch – see it and make your own mind up on this one). This show overall though is pretty much impossible to properly describe in a review – you definitely need to go and see this show and to experience how it “speaks” to you personally, and part of that experience is being prepared to leave this world behind and enter Slava’s winter wonderland. Not everything is happy in this world though, there are some very dark elements here, and at times it is almost like someone has skimmed along the edges of our nightmares. This darker world is balanced with scenes of classic visual comedy and at times scenes of incredible emotional fragility (the coat rack sketch is amazing). Lightness or darkness, pathos or slapstick, the one thing that is always obvious here is the split second timing of the performers; this is physical theatre performed at a very high skill level.
Slava’s Snow Show is an odd show for me, and part of that is because I find that clowns can be very disturbing. There is something about the face of a clown that just unsettles me, so I know that I will have viewed this show with different eyes and emotions from many other people in the audience. This show obviously delighted the children in the audience and you have to be careful not to review this show purely through the eyes of an adult. The look of sheer joy and wonder on the faces of the children around me in this show pretty much says everything. Also amazing to watch how swiftly Slava’s Snow Show can take so many adults back to being children again – particularly with “sheets of snow” and big brightly coloured bouncing balls. There is definitely a doorway into our inner psyche that few people can access, but Vyacheslav Ivanovich “Slava” Polunin is one of them, and through skilled performers like those tonight bringing his creations and their world to life he is continuing to spread his own particular brand of magic around the world. At approaching 25 years old though, the show is showing its age in some areas and perhaps needs a little updating.
Review by Tom King