Tuesday 20th September, 2011, Nottingham Theatre Royal (and again in 2013).
There is a reason that Slava’s Snow Show started winning awards in 1994 and is still going strong: it is most likely the most enveloping, visually spectacular event a lot of audiences will have seen; myself well and truly included. My enduring appreciation for this glorious and thoroughly fun-loving show is evident in the fact that I have seen it twice already and I fully intend to see it again and again. The production is essentially categorised as a fun, Christmassy show (snow/magical-figures) which masters magical techniques, clownery and pantomime to provide fun for all ages. This is all true; yet I’m sure many people considering themselves to be fully grown-up and beyond any enjoyment of foolery found themselves attending a performance with the children or grandchildren, only to find themselves sucked into the unadulterated, uninhibited enjoyment of it all. The lasting impression here is that Slava’s Snow Show is truly unforgettable and it remains, for me, unsurpassed in ambition, vision and scale.
I won’t go through too many details of the show itself as so much of it is about the genuine experience of being there- which is probably my favourite thing about it; this is not sitting in darkened room, enjoying something beautiful on stage, it is something which reaches out to the audience and takes them happily down the rabbit hole. It would, therefore, be futile to attempt to describe it with any real merit. Suffice to say, the design elements are the jewel in the crown for this show; re-imagined, visually striking clown costuming (these are not the clowns you will recognise from parties and stock photographs), vast swathes of snow, giant juggling balls, a beautiful, evocative score and a truly fantastical snow storm are all outlandishly fused together to create a genuine world of wonder. The emphasis on spectacle in this show is unrivalled by anything (of any genre) that I have seen to date.
The ‘story’ is a thread of moments concerning Asisiai, the hilarious, clumsy, sympathetic and charismatic clown in Slava’s eccentric pantomime of nonsensical chaos, madness and magic. With a cast of weird and wonderful clown-folk, he takes the audience through a series of intricately mimed scenes. At times the scenes don’t seem to follow a narrative thread at all, but it truly doesn’t matter; this is a topsy-turvy clown world where anything goes and luckily for the audience, Slava has concocted a vibrant variety of endearing clownery.
The fantastical nature of this show is made all the more affecting and powerful by the nuances of performance in the more tender aspects of the performance; Asisiai explores the absurdity as well as the frailty of life’s winding journey. This is all down to the genius of an infinitely inventive and ingenious creator. If you’re interested enough, I wholly recommend reading up on Slava Polunin. His interviews about the origins and inspiration for his characters and show are brilliantly insightful and they showcase a real treasure of a theatrical mind (see above for my favourite excerpt). I am particularly enamoured of some of his comments on theatre as a crucial provider of escapism and carefree enjoyment, irrespective of age or situation.
My lasting impressions of this show are mostly composed of vivid visuals and the thrill of it all, but also the gentler moments. This show is so much more than a seasonal standard and safe bet for the kids; Slava champions childhood and discovery, embracing childhood wonderment and recreating that wonderment for those who have long since left childhood behind. It is a glorious showstopper which showcases a whole new sphere of combinations and possibilities on stage; for one evening, Slava invites his audience to let go, give in, and enjoy once more that feeling of awe in the face of such impressive sorcery. Nothing seems to be impossible in the world of Slava, and what could be more enthralling and magical than that? So, here is my advice to you, dear reader: take yourself to the show when you see it advertised, sit through the hilarity, sit through the wondrous visuals and the beautifully human moments; sit through the magic and the astounding finale, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Then go home and book your tickets for the following year…young or old, regardless of your tastes in theatre, Slava’s Snow Show is not to be missed.