Circus Review


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A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!



Mark Coucher LTD and Centreline Productions UK Ltd present


Slava’s Snow Show

Artists: Viacheslav Polunin, Francesco Bifano, Georgiy Deliyev, Dmitry Khamzin, Robert Saralp, Onofrio Colucci, Aelita West, Bradford West, Ivan Polunin, Artem Zhimolokhov, Chris Lynam


Stage Technicians – Dmitry Ushakov and Vitaly Galich

Lighting Technician – Sofya Kostyleva

Sound Technicians – Rastiam Dubinnikov

Company Managers – Anna Hannikainen and Natalia Tabachnikova

For Slava’s Snowshow in London:

Production Electrician – Mark Warren
Production Sound – Richardo Camacho
Lighting Supplied by White Light Ltd
Sound Supplied by Thames Audio Ltd

Royal Festival Hall – Southbank Centre

17 December 2011 – 8 January 2012


Those who’ve seen Slava’s Snow Show wear faces wreathed in smiles of fond remembrance, and rather than speak in terms of what it’s ‘about’ to those who’ve yet to see it, always indicate that their lips are sealed, and they invariably are, in a secretive little grin. I found out why a few years ago when I sat up in the gods at Hackney Empire and beheld the wonderous sight of hoards of normally controlled adults, being transformed, for all intents and purposes into big kids! I was right in thinking inventive Russian clown Slava Polunin intended to transform adults into children again with this show, as he’s stated in many interviews. The fact that admittedly tough audiences in London had unwittingly transformed into gleeful children before my eyes before proved such a thing was possible. But in the Royal Festival Hall on the afternoon of December 18th, the alluring habit of staying cool, compared to the freedom of letting go proved overwhelming for many of the adults around us for some time. Though by the end, nearly everyone in the house was on their feet. After all, if the surprise ending of this show doesn’t melt your reserve, you’d have to be a real live icicle!

What is art? You could say it is beauty, or mystery or fun. If so, Slava’s Snow Show fits easily into all three categories. The show is opaque, but not in a cold and oblique way, on the contrary, its dreamlike qualities are intended to warm, rather than chill the heart. If that doesn’t make sense, trust me, it will when you see the show. British actor Simon Callow, known onstage most widely for his vivid portrayals of Charles Dickens, has dubbed it ‘the most beautiful thing I have seen on a stage.’ But this rare, indescribable show transcends any stage. It is epic, yet sparse, dramatic and funny, touching and comic, in a word, bittersweet, like life.

When they opened the doors of RFH Sunday, it was wrapped in a blanket of snow, with white drifts piled in each and every corner. Happy children picked it up in clumps and threw it at one another – harmless fun, as it was in reality, only shredded tissue paper. But the illusion worked! By the time Slava arrived onstage, suitcase in hand, some were already well into the ‘Snow’ part of the Show. What followed was a journey through a landscape of our childhood dreams, and it was easy and oddly moving to see the trajectory unfolding before us through some of the most sublimely skilled ‘clowning ever, in which every gesture and look spoke a thousand words.



Having grown up with Sun. night TV variety shows featuring clowns like the great Emmett Kelly, Marcel Marceau and other seminal practitioners of their great, wordless art, and attended a travelling circus, in a big top each Spring, I was still unprepared for the multiplicitous talents of Slava and his low heeled, high minded troupe of flop footed clowns! After all, one can aim no higher than the stars! And I don’t mean the ones on Broadway, though for Slava, a trip to NYC meant to last two months turned into a long standing, standing ovation gig lasting two years!

Like so many wonderful things do, the idea for the Snow Show ‘came to’ Slava one day in 1993. Since then, it has been seen by countless people around the world. As Slava himself said, rather than place white circles of surprise around his clown’s eyes, he went for mottled black shapes, and his nose is more like a drooping plum, then the cheery red ball of more traditional clowns. In his oversized yellow suit and fuzzy red slippers, he’s ready to take on the world, of his own making? Maybe, but also, of ours, as there is much to recognize in this land of swirling dreams, most of it from childhood memories lost (but not forgotten) in the mists of time. And mists swirl over the stage intermittently throughout the show, like an all encompassing, frosty fog.  

All of the truly great clowns the world has ever known have been paradoxes, a la Charlie Chaplin, their tears perpetually lined with sunshine, and vice versa. An achingly evocative segment in which Slava interacts with an empty coat and hat, as though they were a woman seeing him off at a train station after a tender farewell is one of the most touching scenes I’ve ever witnessed, anywhere!

Sound is also an all important, atmosphere heightening aspect of Slava’s Snow Show, with the distant roar of what sounds like the Trans Siberian Express intermittenly rumbling through the hall. Music plays a pivotal role too, with the savvy theme from Peter Gunn backing up some highly skilled, but spontaneous looking clowning, which the crowd had the choice of reacting to or engaging with. It’s all designed to awaken that dormant child in us! Other music utilized to good effect included the themes from the films Chariots of Fire and The Omen (I believe) and the selections all added drama or humour or both. Lighting is also integral, with on one particularly memorable occasion, an oversized, colour shifting balloon stands in for a full moon, its’ morphing tones piercing the darkness, lending an unexpected note of poignancy.  

If I told you to hold onto your hat for the finale, it’d be good advice, spoken from experience. I might add here that you’d also be well advised to remove all valuables from your pockets before you go to the show and wear loose, comfortable clothing you can move freely in, if you want to get the most out of your experience. But you may think that that’s going too far! Suffice it to say that your imagination is really, the one thing you shouldn’t leave home without.

If you love snow, Christmas, clowns, mime and/or feeling a sense of childlike wonder, then this is THE show for you. If on the other hand, you could take or leave such things and don’t like letting go, you could do with a good thaw, so buy a ticket and allow it to work its magic on you.

In conclusion my wishes are twofold: that Slava’s tours are endless and that you too succumb to the wintery allure of enigmatic, ambivalent, ever wondrous and wonderful Slava’s Snow Show.
Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road
By email:
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By phone:
Switchboard: +44 (0)20 7960 4200
Ticket Office: 0844 875 0073
Book tickets now
£20 to £47.50 Premium £65
Booking Fee:£1.75 (Members £0.00)
Concessions: 50% off (limited availability)
Best Availability: 26 Dec 7.30pm, 30 Dec 7.30pm, 31 Dec 2.30pm, 2 Jan 7.30pm, 3 Jan 2.30pm
Nearest underground stations: Waterloo (Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee and Waterloo and City lines) Embankment (Circle and District lines)
Nearest railway stations: Waterloo, Waterloo East, Charing Cross
By bus: Buses stop on Waterloo Bridge, in York Road, in Belvedere Road and in Stamford Street
By river: Boats stop at Festival Pier.
By bike: Bike stands are located in Southbank Centre Square

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