I’m really not keen on clowns. Let’s be honest, I’m pretty terrified of them and have been for quite a few years now. I know it’s irrational, but there it is. So when I was asked to go and review a clown show at the Royal Festival Hall, I decided to face my fears and go for it. Apart from clowns, I had no real idea what I was in store for and Slava’s Snowshow was a complete surprise on every level.
I sort of got the idea something was different when I walked into the auditorium and saw just how messy it was. Normally the RFH is a beautiful wood panelled performance space overlooked by pods that could have come from the set of Star Wars. Today, however, the sides were covered with a black curtain and there were small pieces of paper on every surface. I took my seat among the hundreds of children that had been brought to the show by their doting parents and prepared myself for clowns and sprogs.
So, where to start? In Slava’s Snowshow there is no narrative to follow. There are various scenes which involve a yellow clown – who looks a lot like Captain Birdseye – and several green clowns. The performers – Aron De Casmaker, Bradford West, Christopher Lynam, Nikolai Terentiev, Oleg Lugovskoy, Robert Saralp, Tatiana Karamysheva and Yury Musatov, all led by show creator Slava Polunin – rotate around the shows so you don’t know in advance who is going to appear at each performance.
There is an awful lot to get in the roughly two hours running time and I really don’t want to give too much away. If you want a hint, then I would suggest a quick look at the official trailer but, to be honest, that 45-second piece of film really doesn’t prepare you for what you are about to see and experience. I did find, particularly in the first act that the intensity of the show dropped a couple of times, but, on the whole, it kept the children and adults enthralled throughout. You know that the children are really into a show when you hear them whisper – “ah look mummy, that clown is really sad.” The show is recommended for children eight years and above and I can understand why as there were some whispers asking for clarification and I’m not sure the wee ones caught every nuance of the scenes but they certainly knew what they liked.
The production itself is amazing and there were times when props seemed to appear on the stage almost by magic, as the lights went down and speedily came back up. There was some ‘traditional’ clowning went on, and it’s worth getting back quickly from the interval. I will say since it’s not a spoiler as everyone knows about it, the snowstorm – forget that – the blizzard is truly unbelievable. The snow flows to the accompaniment of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and only lasts for a few seconds but is one of the most fantastic things I have seen or will ever see in a theatre. Followed almost immediately by the giant balloons, where every adult was a kid again keeping them in the air, the show came to a spectacular and completely unforgettable end.
Ultimately, it is impossible to adequately describe Slava’s Snowshow. I am not often lost for words but at the end of this production, I was completely struck silent. Words then and now, cannot adequately express what I experienced. All I can say is Slava’s Snowshow is a unique theatrical experience that has to be seen to be believed.
Review by Terry Eastham
Experience a joyous dream-like world that touches both your heart and funny bone, culminating in a breathtaking blizzard that leaves you literally knee deep in snow, in Slava’s Snowshow.
The multi-award-winning international sensation is back due to popular demand for Christmas 2017, having delighted audiences in over 80 cities globally including New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro and Moscow.
Age recommendation: Suitable for ages 8+. Children under 3-years-old are strictly not permitted.
Royal Festival Hall
Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX
Recommended for ages 8+. Children under 3 will not be admitted.
Booking Until: 4th Jan 2018