Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Chapter 118: Slava's SnowShow

Photo: (click here)

Slava's SnowShow is a beautiful show that celebrates the poetics of clowning, and is the creation of Russian artist Slava Polunin, developed over several decades. It had come onto my radar thanks to a friend, not linked to the circus world in any way, but very much a circus spirit, open to wonder, who shares my love of quirky humour and the art of silent comedy.

I had tickets last January and had to give them away at the last minute, but seeing it with the children and their cousins on Saturday couldn't have been better timed. We were in sore need of distraction and some festive cheer, while we waited on news of my husband in A&E with a broken leg (see previous post). In addition, I had heard so much about the show in November in the workshop, with Ira Seidenstein (see post on Clowning Around - click here), who had worked with Slava and his wife in the show. It was a workshop that had deepened my appreciation of the art of physical performance and I fired off a message to the London group we have since created, who would understand my excitement.

As we walked into the auditorium there was therefore a frisson of anticipation. I had heard some anecdotes, nothing prepared me for the surprises in store, and for that I'm grateful. While there are some wondrous special effects, the real magic is in the comedy generated by the the movement and expressions of the performers. It is an exquisite lesson in the art of clowning and the type of show, with a unique energy, you could return to again and again, like the family behind us on their third outing. 

The children were spell-bound from the word go. The opening scene, focussing on a gently despondent clown's abortive attempts to hang himself, was both poignant and darkly comical. It will be one of the reasons the show is given a recommended age of 8+, but my youngest, nearly 4, was not in the least perturbed, and simply laughed at the spectacle of a funny man playing with a rope, while older children fell about at the introduction of a second clown, the foil. I was lost in the moment with them, while also finding echoes of Beckett's fools Pozzo and Lucky, and wondering at the absurdity of life.

But, even during the quieter of moments, the mind never wandered - this is a show that engages on a visceral level, an experience that touches you, quite literally, in all senses. We were sprayed with water, showered with paper snow, and challenged at every turn to use our imagination to make sense of the narrative. It has a superb musical score that is timed beautifully with the action, leaving your feet tapping through the interval as the clowns spin their web of enchantment out over the audience, and your heart roused at the grand finale, which is quite literally a blast. At the end we ran down to the front, tipping snow on Slava's friends, reaching up to punch one of the giant balls crowd-surfing overhead, and chasing after the ghosts of fluttering ticker tape as though to catch it carried the same good luck as a falling leaf. Our delight carried on into the foyer, where there was a whole carpet of snow begging to be played with. Then, just as we were leaving, the phone rang. My husband was out of hospital and on his way home as well. Perfect timing. Bring on the clowns. 

Slava's SnowShow is on until 3 January at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre. Click here

For a fascinating interview with Slava Polunin see  "A Monologue with a Clown": (click here)

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