Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Slava's Snow Show

Created and staged by Slava Polunin
The Lowry, Salford, and touring
(2008)

Production photo

Russian clown Slava Polunin makes a welcome return to the area with his wonderfully charming Snow Show, which played to a packed audience of all ages at the Lowry.

The show is a series of scenes of varying lengths between sad, yellow-romper-suited Slava and his skinny, green-raincoated companion (who has a large number of lookalikes of different sizes), some with little stories but many that are more abstract. The clowning takes its influence more from the theatrical greats (Slava credits Stanislavski, Meierhold, Artaud, Beckett, Bausch and Wilson as influences) than a sometimes tired-looking tradition of custard pies and honking noses, but there are recognisable influences of some of the great stage and silent screen physical comedians; many of Slava's sidekick's actions are very reminiscent of those of the great Stan Laurel.

All of this may make it seem like the show is more cerebral than fun, but nothing could be further from the truth. Every spectator from the very young to the really quite old was absolutely riveted to the show for the full ninety minutes, laughing, crying or just gazing open-mouthed at the sheer beauty of the spectacle.

The design is absolutely gorgeous throughout with some very large items (giant inflatables, a ball with a person inside it, very powerful bubble and dry ice machines and, of course, snow), but the performances are on a much smaller scale. Whereas most family entertainment feels it has to be loud, big and fast-moving, Slava can stand on stage doing nothing for the longest time and then, with a tiny gesture, suddenly grab the whole audience from the front stalls to the top balcony and make them react as one. This is clever and courageous acting that comes from a real understanding of audiences.

The delights in the show range from the purely slapstick, such as a very short scene that consists entirely of Slava falling off a chair several times, to the genuinely moving. The best example of the latter is a scene that takes the old gag of someone mistaking his own arm in a jacket on a coat stand for another person and turns it into a really sad railway station farewell scene more moving than anything in Brief Encounter. Audience participation ranges from knowing looks into the auditorium to a parody of a western movie death scene where Slava, with arrows through his chest, staggers about the stage and then through the audience, walking not on the floor but on the back of seats with people sitting in them. There is a beautiful extended slow motion scene with a balloon, and an impressive collage of short scenes near the end where people and scenery appear and disappear from the stage almost as if by magic.

If you hear the loud music in the auditorium during the interval and worry that you are missing something — you are. Many of the performers remain in the theatre throughout the interval to keep the entertainment going. But then they do make it difficult to leave, as they tie up the whole of the stalls in a giant spider's web before the interval and launch some toys into the audience right at the end to let everyone join in with the fun. And if you're worried that you won't get snowed on if you are sat towards the back, just wait till the blizzard comes. The Lowry staff will no doubt be finding paper snow throughout the building for months to come.

This is really wonderful visual entertainment, beautifully designed and expertly executed, that will amuse and charm all ages (apart, perhaps, for the very young who may be frightened by the loud music and some of the large visuals) and it cannot be recommended highly enough, although you may have to fight to get a ticket.

To 1 November

Reviewer: David Chadderton