'Slava's Snowshow' created and performed by Slava Polunin
Now onstage until December 31 at Toronto's Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street
“A whimsical journey performed with wide-eyed, childlike innocence and a knowing, worldly and wise experience of adulthood. Tremendous joy emanates from the artists. A holiday treat.”
I saw ‘Slava’s Snowshow’ in November 2018 at the Bluma Appel. When I heard it was returning for the Christmas/holiday season, I wanted to see it again. This time, I took two friends with me to share the tremendous joy of this story.
There were moments from this production of 'Slava's Snowshow' that made my eyes well with tears. I became a young, wide-eyed, innocent child again, watching this absurd and surrealistic dream world. The programme note describes them as ‘idiots on the loose.’ Alright, I’m not sure I’d call them ‘idiots’; nevertheless, they’re adorably dressed foppishly in clown garb with bright red noses and huge feet with what I call winged floppy ears.
Alistair Kerslake’s terrific soundscape of a train can be heard upon entering the Elgin Theatre auditorium. (I wish I could have placed the annoying couple sitting in front of me on that train to take them out of the theatre. They were taking pictures when the announcement was made not to do so. My friend and I had to tell them twice to stop taking pictures. That’s another discussion).
Alexander Pecherskiy and Rebecca Lore visually set the Elgin stage in shadows. It’s a nice touch when juxtaposing that with the loud, but not deafening, sound of a train transporting us somewhere. Since the title indicates a ‘snowshow’, I assume we are travelling someplace cold. There’s no mention of a set designer but a technical director, so I’ll credit Vanya Yarpolskiy. His setting suggests a bleak and cold environment, making me smile as I write this article. Yesterday's (and today’s) weather is more of an April or November setting.
Once again, I’ll credit Kerslake’s impressive selection of music to accompany the artists in telling the story. The music never seemed overpowering to my ears because the Elgin is a large auditorium. The actors want to ensure the audience in the back row of the balcony can also hear the music and songs. Those musical interludes also became earworms for me as I hummed them the next day as I wrote this article.
‘Slava’s Snowshow’ has been poetically created and staged by Slava Polunin, dressed in an oversized yellow onesie. There’s a sad sack quality about his eyes that you can’t help but wish you could go and hug him. He has performed this show for over 30 years in countries worldwide and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He’s still nimble and agile and moves with a bodily dexterity that is fun to watch. I’m still amazed that Polunin can walk on the backs of the seats in the house, and neither he nor any of the artists involved at that point slipped off the chairs with all of the water being splashed about.
This return Toronto engagement is not disappointing (again, save for those audience members who felt they were obnoxiously above listening to advisories not to take photographs during the performance). Polunin and his eight ‘on-the-loose idiots’ continue to captivate with charm and charisma. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh out loud.
The art of clowning is not an easy one to master. It’s not merely The Three Stooges or Lucille Ball (yes, I’m showing my age here).
There’s a reason why clowning is considered an art form. It takes years of study and practice to master its focus of continually remaining in the moment and not being distracted if something goes wrong. At this performance, an audience member sneezed during silence. It didn’t break the concentration of the artists onstage. They went along with the noise and made it part of their shtick, making the audience laugh even harder.
In this ‘Snowshow,’ the varied series of moments may look initially unscripted with no apparent connection at all to each other. However, a connecting feature does run through each moment of the show, and you must pay attention to discover what it is. Some amusing and poignant bits that are part of this feature are lovingly captured on stage. That’s part of the magic I don’t want to destroy here. The only hint I will give is that the spider web created on stage plays an integral part in connecting everything.
Judging by the response from the audience around me, most notably, the children and young people appear to have understood the connection. They were indeed highly taken with the magic and antics of Polunin and his gang. One girl was pulled from the audience in the second act, and she became part of the storytelling for a few minutes as the audience began to settle in their seats following intermission. There are gigantic helium-filled balloons and large balls that fill the house thoroughly. Everyone has a turn being able to bounce these gigantic monstrosities throughout the auditorium.
It is the moment involving a coat rack on a railway platform with the heartbreaking goodbyes where the audience witnesses the knowing the worldly view of adulthood and how goodbyes do become part of our lives.
Final Comments: At times, the show is puzzling, while at other times, it is brilliant in its simplistic gestures. ‘Slava’s Snowshow’ is another holiday treat to give yourselves and see the production live.
Running time: approximately one hour and 45 minutes with one intermission.
‘Slava’s Snowshow’ runs until December 31 at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street. For tickets, https://www.ticketmaster.ca/slavas-snowshow-tickets/artist/907448?venueId=131082&utm_source=SOP&utm_medium=Website&utm_campaign=SlavaTO23
SHOW ONE PRODUCTIONS presents ‘Slava’s Snowshow’ created and performed by Slava Polunin
Technical Director: Vanya Yaropolskiy
Sound: Alistair Kerslake
Lights: Alexander Pecherskiy, Rebecca Lore
Company Manager: Eerika Yaropolskiy
Ambassador: Gwenael Allan
Performers: Slava Polunin, Robert Saralp, Dima Merashchi, Bradford West, Oleg Lugovskoy, Georgiy Deliyev, Nikolai Terentiev, Christopher Lynam, Jaime Rebollo