I have long enjoyed the circus and most of the time, my favourite parts featuring the circus clowns are short lived. This is where Slava’s Snow Show steps up and provides an entire show based on the incredible artform of clownery. Since 1993, Slava Polunin has been presenting this visual spectacular to audiences around the world and this time, it was my turn to bare witness to the Russian Clown Master’s handy work.
From the moment I entered Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse Theatre, the experience had already begun. The entire space was covered in strips of white tissue paper, almost as if a snowstorm had blown through before doors had opened. The urge to grab a handful of the ‘snow’ and throw it at my fellow patrons was infectious and before long there was a ‘snow fight’ occurring around me and I could not help but join in the fun.
The show begins with a long figure shuffling on stage holding a long piece of rope. Dressed in a fluffy, bright yellow jump suit and a fiery red afro, the clown began to pull at the rope that seemingly had no end until another figure entered the stage. This clown is dressed in a long green trench coat and a strange denim hat that looks like it had wings. Both figures were painted with traditional clown makeup and unmistakeable red noses. Suddenly, the green clowns began to multiply and before long there were six of them. It became very clear to me that the main character of this story was the one dressed in yellow with the green team supporting the shenanigans throughout the show.
Clownery is one artform that has been done time and time again, but never before have I witnessed anything like Slava’s Snow Show. There is so much about this production that elevates the genre to legendary status. Their uncanny ability to portray clearly defined emotions just by their facial expressions is something I have never witnessed on stage before. Throw in their use of body language and physical comedy, and you have a performance that completely mind blowing. One example of such displays was a simple slow shuffle from one side of the stage to the other whilst bopping up and down to the music. It was so simplistic, yet I was completely enthralled by the entire bit. Their ability to tell a story without words is utterly incredible.
Now, a clown show would not be complete without some audience participation. This part of the show kicks into overdrive during interval. About half way through the break, the green clowns sneak their way onto the stage, seemingly shocked by the people that talking and moving about the theatre. They huddle together, unsure of their environment, shuffling their way towards the front of the stage. Then, chaos. Utter chaos. There is no other way to describe what occurs. I was in absolute hysterics with the spectacle that was unfolding around me. The entire stalls section of seating had clowns climbing over the seats and causing absolute mayhem. For those that need to use the bathroom during interval, please do so with haste and make your way back to your seats, especially if you are seated close to the stage because it is something that you do not want to miss.
After intermission, the pace changed gear dramatically with some more hilarious physical comedy antics, including some throwbacks to the events of the intermission that would make zero sense to anyone that missed it. But it is in the second act that has a beautiful performance takes place with the main clown dressed in yellow equipped with a giant suitcase and a coat rack. It is a touching tale of love and the heartbreak of saying goodbye to a loved one. Whilst there was only one performer on stage, with the aid of the coat rack and a cleverly placed arm, it felt like there two souls sharing a sweet deep and meaningful moment together. Shortly after this performance, the chaos resumes. Those that have seen this production before, know exactly what comes next. For those that have not seen it, I do not want to ruin the surprise! I want to say be prepared, but nothing could have prepared me for what happened. It was arguably the best part of the show and completely blew me away (almost literally)!
Slava Polunin has created an absolute masterpiece with this production. And whilst Slava was not in attendance himself due to the show performing around the world, it still felt like he was there. This was because the Australian run of shows was left in the capable hands of Slava’s son, Vanya Polunin. Vanya literally grew up with the production and has been in the industry since appearing on stage with his father at age one. Vanya has also had a hand in creating costumes and varied furniture items for many of Salva’s productions. Vanya is accompanied by his fellow impressive troupe with; Dmytro Merashchi, Onofrio Coluccio, Chris Lynam, Nikolai Terentiev, Bradford West, Clint Bolster, Mitch Jones, and Ira Seidenstein.
Even with the incredible slew of talent provided by the collective cast, Slava’s Snow Show would be incomplete without its incredibly designed set, accompanying musical score, dramatic lighting, and overall immersive experience. I have never experienced anything like it in my lifetime and I honestly wish I could forget the whole thing so I can experience it for the first time again and again.
And if the antics during intermission were not enough, or if you just missed out completely because you were out in the foyer (seriously, you don’t want to miss intermission), there is more to get involved with once the performance concludes. Again, I will not spoil it for you, but please, hang around and make the most of it because you will not regret it!
Slava’s Snow Show is easily one of the best, if not the best, circus style performances I have ever seen. Acrobatics and stunts have nothing over the marvellous magnificent mastery of clownery effortlessly displayed during this exquisite production. The entire performance, including its immersive and interactive parts, provoked pure joy in all ages and it will go down as one of the best shows I have seen all year.
Do not miss Slava’s Snow Show performing and Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse Theatre. Running until Sunday the 8th of January before the production heads to Brisbane 11th to 15th of January and Sydney 18th to 29th of January.
For tickets and more information, please visit: https://www.slavasnowshow.com.au
Photography by Andrea Lopez.