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Wednesday 29th October 2008
Theatre Review | SLAVA'S SNOW SHOW | Slava @ The Lowry, Salford Quays [tour]

Children’s theatre. Theatre for all the family. However you put it, sometimes – and there are many quality exceptions – it can be a byword for soulless manufactured pap, custom-built to pack the family crowds in and hurl empty spectacle at them, particularly during cold half-term school holidays. Fortunately, none of these charges could be levelled at the beguiling and enchanting Slava’s Snow Show.

Its simplicity is its greatest virtue. Essentially, it’s a series of beautiful, and often hilarious, vignettes. A clown sits on an angular stool by an angular table, and falls off three times. It’s hilarious, and it brings the house down. A series of clowns enter, scattering snow from their big, silly hats. They spar, they dance. Orbs of glowing light keep entering and disappearing. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s ominous. And then something quite, quite extraordinary happens.

There’s no dialogue, only some pre-recorded music (incidentally, it's the only time I can recall hearing Vangelis’ Chariots Of Fire theme without contemplating suicide) and a stark, snowy set. And every minute is utterly captivating.

There’s a temptation to over-analyse, which could have me promptly relegated to Pseud’s Corner, but hear me out. Creator and director Slava Polunin has been celebrated internationally for this piece, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s created an accessible and sweet show that could charm the pants off anyone over the age of three. And he alludes to Stanislavski, Meyerhold, Artaud, Beckett, Bausch and Wilson. The piece’s concerns with the solitary and futile nature of existence are as profound as anything in Waiting For Godot. And the precise and clear objectives of absolutely every performer in every single scene echo Stanislavski’s diktat.

Essentially, this is intelligent fare that silenced a young audience, and their parents. Aside from the odd gasp, that is. It’s beautifully and thoughtfully designed, and beneath its many technical accomplishments beats its heart. For this is a show with soul, humanity and – ironically, enough – warmth, that’s been created from the inside out, and not the other way around.

If you shudder at the novelty aspect of some of the more ‘select’ segments of a Royal Variety Performance, then this might come across as gimmicky. If you want to be reminded of theatre in its purest form, however, and see some – genuinely – unforgettable sequences of astonishing skill and wit, then this should prove an unmissable treat. Joyous, truly.

© Matthew Nichols 2008

  • Slava’s Snow Show is at The Lowry, Salford Quays until 1 November 2008. Further tour dates

 
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