Do you feel a cold wind blowing? That’s because Slava’s Snow show has just whirled into South Africa for the first time ever. Audiences are in for a dose of winter delight. In addition to snowstorms, the show brings with it a haul of glittering international awards garnered since Russian clown extraordinaire Slava Polunin created the show in 1993.
Do you hear a train coming? It’s the night train, coming to take you on a journey into the dream world twixt wake and sleep, to Slava’s magical snowy realm. A realm where sharks roam, fish fly, and if you’re not careful, you may become completely tangled in a giant spider’s web.
Slava’s Snow Show is difficult to categorise, it’s a surreal theatrical experience populated by clowns. You should also be prepared for a little bit of audience participation. A word to the wise when booking your tickets, the closer to the front you’re seated, the more interactive the performance becomes. If you prefer a more hands off encounter, you might be happier in a balcony seat.
The show starts at a gentle, sometimes hypnotically slow pace with the two halves of the performance bookended by magically bonkers and interactive theatrical spectaculars. There is an intermission, but be warned, those mischievous clowns will make sure everybody is back in their seats and wide awake for the remainder of the show.
Don’t go expecting the entire show to be a bells, whistles and thrills performance though. Much of it is about lovable clowns clowning about and miming their way through a series of disconnected dreamy scenes expressing innocent humour and bittersweet tragedy. You will laugh and you might sigh as you are entertained by their idiosyncratic pantomime. With regards to clowning around, Slava himself coined the expression “Expressive Idiotism”, which is a succinct description of what you’ll see. There is no dialogue and just like real dreams, it doesn’t all make sense.
As a piece of theatre it is visually stunning. The physicality of the clowns is a studied art, and in a miraculous trompe d’oeil they will grow or shrink, grow older or younger in front of your very eyes. The Yellow Clown with his fluffy red slippers and yellow romper suit appears to float across the stage with his fast-slow motion shuffle. Just as you start to feel sorry for him, he will turn the tables and tease the crowd. His companions the Green Clowns wear raincoats and unusual hats and are alternately charming and slightly menacing.
The show is not for everybody. For starters it’s not recommended for under 8’s. The content of the Snow Show could bore, confuse or even frighten younger children. There is also of course the risk of tiny children being trampled under foot by excitable adults who want to have a snowball fight.
Like Susan in The Chronicles of Narnia, there will also be a few adults who will find the gentle humour and playful clowns too old fashioned, silly or childish for their grown up tastes. They might also find the special effects irritating, especially if they are wearing their ‘Sunday Best’.
Don’t be like Susan. Come and have a snowball fight. Come and play. Come and dream.
Finally, to quote one 10 year-old audience member: “BEST – SHOW – EVER.”
Slava’s Snowshow runs at Johannesburg’s Montecasino Teatro from 26 July to 14 August 2016.