I FIRST saw this show at the Edinburgh Fringe on its second visit there in the mid-90s, after its international life had started with a stint at the Hackney Empire, gradually entrancing audiences and eventually winning an Olivier Award. It is hard to describe the emotion and effect of the show itself, but mention it to anyone who has seen it and you can almost guarantee a warm, friendly smile.
The Snowshow is a couple of hours of well-crafted, honed, detailed performance by a small group of clowns, directed by Slava Polunin, a Russian clown who devised the show with his clown colleagues in the early 1990s. With a soundtrack including the familiar, such as the theme from Chariots of Fire, O Fortuna from Orff’s Carmina Burana (still the Old Spice music to some of us) and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, as well as some unfamiliar tunes, different numbers of clowns encounter different dilemmas, including a telephone conversation, a journey on a boat including a very funny shark, balloons, canaries, bows and arrows. When cobwebs fill the auditorium and huge balls bounce around us we are drawn directly into their world of imagination and adventure.
Slava himself sometimes still performs on his tours, but the magic of clowning means that others can play the central role, with the same make up and costume, and because they all share such talent, based on historic influences from Marceau to Chaplin, we need never know which performers we see.
Long before we leave the snow-covered auditorium everyone is smiling, old, young, male, female, and we have all been infected by happiness. I am convinced that even the most cynical, negative person would be equally infected by this happy virus, which the clowns somehow project through their sensitive attention to detail and precision.
Slava’s troupe are at Bristol this week, Southampton next, and then at the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank over Christmas and into the New Year. If you have not seen it, try and get a ticket, and if you have seen it, I can recommend a return visit.
PS I wrote about the Snowshow last time it visited Bath, three years ago, mainly about connecting, so feel free to search for Snowshow on the FTR if you want to read more.