Slava's Snow Show
Birmingham Hippodrome * * * * *
Review by Andrew Cowen
I don't know if there's a proper word for it, but I have always suffered from a phobia of being eaten by clowns.
With their big feet, over-sized trousers and casual mindless violence, I'd always had them pegged as a Clockwork Orange-inspired red-nosed death cult.
So, it's a big thank you from me to Slava this morning for purging me of my fear.
This Russian entertainer and his posse of fellow clowns delivered a spectacular show, quite unlike anything I'd ever seen before. To paraphrase Joni Mitchell, I really don't know clowns at all.
Far removed from the circus goons, this is clowning as an artform. Part slapstick, part mime and with a huge dose of surrealism, Slava and co are masters of their art.
What also sets the Snow Show apart from Billy Smart is the sheer theatricality of the staging. Beautifully lit, with superb props and sound effects, you're gripped from the moment the first clown shuffles onto stage.
Slava founded the Theatre of the Art of Modern Clowning, a strange institution that mixes Harry Langdon and Stanislavski. There are strong touches of Beckett too in many of the scenes where nothing much seems to happen.
No discernable plot, just a series of encounters, wordless and enigmatic, are the form. The comedy comes from movement – some of the clowns' walks are hilarious.
There's snow, of course; well, torn up bits of paper which flutter around the auditorium, but the show is not a traditional seasonal offering. In Slava's world, it's always deep and crisp and even.
All the incidental episodes lead up to a couple of set pieces which are a proper spectacle.
A blizzard at the end of the second half is astonishing and the finale, which I'll refrain from revealing, will remain with you forever, particularly if you take the kids.
I took my two and they both said it was the greatest thing they'd ever seen.
I would be inclined to agree.