Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The curtain call has been over for almost 10 minutes, but the audience is still on its feet, laughing, and shouting. Excited children with equally-as-excited parents in tow have run forward to stage, kids are having “snow-fights” while the adults are trying to dodge the gigantic coloured balls bouncing about.
Moments before all the merriment, a blizzard of confetti engulfed everyone in the audience like a full-frontal snow-storm complemented by the stirring strains of “O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’.
This is the incredible end to ‘Slava’s Snowshow’ which is currently staged at Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands until 9 September 2012.
Equal parts fantasy, comedy and tragedy, ‘Slava’s Snowshow’ is the brainchild of Russian performance artist Slava Polunin – who is also inspired by mimes Marcel Marceau and Charlie Chaplin – who takes the art of clowning out of the circus, and into the realm of theatre.
The show follows a group of clowns facing a series of obstacles that culminates into the spectacle that transforms the theatre into a giant playground.
Polunin presents us with a dream-like world where adults become children again – a bed transforms into a boat, a giant spider-web enveloping the audience – and where the rules of reality are left at the door.
Snowshow's army of clowns
And yes, there’s the snow. But before we see Polunin’s protagonist Asisyai (Polunin himself in a baggy yellow romper and fluffy shoes) heading into the impending paper maelstrom, we get to witness an oddball procession of artful (and almost silent) vignettes with a total lack of any narrative thread.
But that’s where strength of the performance lies, the ability of Polunin and his troupe of performers to convey movement and expression through understated gestures which draws its influence from pantomime and clowning.
Although the figures on stage with their red noses, floppy hats, baggy clothes and goofy makeup looks every bit like the conventional clown, the complexity of each character elevates them into performance art.
Without giving away too much, we love the part where Polunin lugs a suitcase and a coat rack onstage. Here he opens the suitcase whereby three white balloons unexpectedly fly out. He then removes a women’s coat and hat and hangs them on the rack across the stage. Taking baby steps to reach the rack, Polunin slowly shuffles in his oversized red fluffy shoes as if to convey distance. And once the coat and hat were hung, that’s when the magic happens. Polunin slips one arm into the coat’s sleeve bringing it to life, with him having a conversation as if with the imaginary person. The scene is both poignant and amusing, and the crux of Polunin’s oeuvre.
But of course, what are clowns without a spot of foolery? The obligatory clownish hi-jinks are injected through Snowshow’s army of green-coated clowns climbing over the seated crowd, inspecting handbags and purses, showering water over them with a dripping umbrella.
The young ones are delighted of course but, as Polunin intends, this is as much a theatrical key meant to unlock the wonder-filled child in all of us. For those of you with coulrophobia (fear of clowns and you shouldn’t be watching this in the first place), we suggest you select seats in the circle upstairs but you will miss all the fun.
Bombastic, whimsical, clever, fun and at times moving, ‘Slava’s Snowshow’ is the clowning equivalent to the circus extravaganza that is Cirque du Soleil, and a show everyone should see at least once. It cannot be recommended highly enough.