An Experience Like No Other: Slava’s Snowshow at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Yellow clown in storm (V.Mishukov)

An experience like no other; an explosion of unrestrained joy and delight: beyond this, it’s close to impossible to describe Slava’s Snowshow without saying at once too much and too little. At the risk of falling into this trap, however, here are some of the things you can expect to find, should you decide to attend.

Subtle, thoughtful and contained yet somehow simultaneously buzzing with a mischievous, child-like energy, Slava Polunin is both a traditional clown and something altogether fresh and unique. Having raided a long and well-established history of silent performance to create this show, he refashions what he finds there into something truly remarkable, the gleaming treasures and dusty clichés all radically transformed through his own comic genius and that of his collaborators.

Storm with drape (A.Lopez)

What makes this show so different from anything else you will ever see, then, is not so much what happens, but how it does so. Everyone who attends the Snowshow will enter the theatre thinking they know something about clowning, and will be met there with plenty of the things they expect to see. Yet they will also have their every expectation subverted. The most familiar gags and gestures startle and surprise, appearing so suddenly and in such imaginative ways that we almost fail to recognise them when we see them.

Trudging gloomily onto the stage, the Yellow Clown begins the show by fashioning a piece of rope into a kind of noose. By the end of it, he’s showering his audience with snow and bombarding them with giant, multicoloured, inflatable balls, leaving the room filled with smiles so big that ear-to-ear doesn’t do them justice. Between these two points is every emotion in-between: the show is perhaps best described as a kind of rollercoaster ride through the highs and lows of life, triggering a similar adrenaline rush that’s undoubtedly better shared than experienced alone. To steal a brilliant description from my fellow First Night Blogger, Amy Stutz, it’s also “like having a good dream and a nightmare at the same time”.

Slavas Snowshow at the Royal Festival Hall  Photo by Vladimir Mishukov  4 (2)People may come to see Slava’s Snowshow, but they soon find themselves becoming a part of it: to describe the audience members as “viewers” seems wholly inadequate. If you choose to participate in this show – and I urge you to do so – you’ll be covered in snow and cobwebs, possibly soaked, surrounded by bubbles and generally invited to relinquish your inhibitions and play. It’s hard to imagine a single person making it through this show without cracking a smile – most of us won’t be able to wipe the grins off our faces for days. And why would you want to? The only bad thing to say about Slava’s Snowshow is that eventually, it has to end.

Slava’s Snowshow runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome tonight and tomorrow. For more information and to book tickets, visit the theatre’s website.

_MG_0819Photo credits: A. Lopez, Vladimir Mishukov

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