Much like Marmite, it seems Slava Polunion’s theatrical spectacle Snowshow incites reactions of either love or hate. Established in 1993, this on-stage workshop of clowning compromises of a series of comedic sketches led by Polunion himself as the character of the ‘Yellow Clown’, accompanied by a band of green clown minions, whose objective is to draw out the childish innocence from all members of their audience.
In Slava’s recent book, The Alchemy of Snowness, he details how the show is essentially the overflow of his absurdist imagination translated into the tragicomic form of clowning. However, the realisation of this seemingly poetic idea is far stranger than it is thought provoking and appears to alienate as many audience members as it entertains.
The metaphysical dream world opens with the melancholic Yellow Clown contemplating his existence and the noose around his neck, evidencing the need for an 8-year-old age requirement on our tickets. Such moments of unsettling tragi-comedy, combined with nightmarish scenes reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s ‘The Elephants’, are randomly interspersed between the narrative’s silliness in an unnerving way that fails to have any significant impact on the audience. It is rather the spectacle of the show, founded on its incredible pyrotechnics and lighting, as opposed to any symbolism alluded to in Alchemy of Snowness, that sells tickets.
Those who invested in front row tickets certainly got value for their money as almost half of the show saw Polunion playing with the audience and bringing the freedom of the circus to the spectators. Mischievous stunts directly encouraged individuals to immerse themselves in the silliness of the show, whilst the theatrics of certain scenes often overflowed into the whole audience for a more stunning effect. One instance, where the yellow clown is tangled in cobwebs, suddenly escalates into a wall of cobwebs dramatically engulfing the audience as he yanks his broom, reaping screams of childish delight.
However, it is without doubt that the most breathtaking spectacle of the show is Slava’s infamous snow finale. As the stage transforms into the titled winter scene, complete with skiing clowns and snowballs, the audience is suddenly blinded with light and the most powerful gust of confetti snow blows into the theatre, reaching the highest seats and creating a blizzard that stuns even the most cynical of spectators. The show ends with giant, coloured balloons rolling into the audience that are bounced around like a surreal game of slow-mo volleyball. Upon exiting from the stands, the image of starry-eyed adults reaching for balls was ultimately far more impressionable than any of the shows’ abstract content.
From this lasting impression on the audience, it is undeniable that Slava succeeds in reviving the youth of his spectators, yet the show lacks depth in his artistic content. Expect a circus spectacle and you won’t be disappointed but there seems little else to warrant the purchase of a ticket.
Runs until Saturday 4 November
Photo Credit: V. Vial