Yet, despite sleep deprivation, aching limbs and the end of a cold, this particular show blew me away. In fact, at one point, I thought it might literally blow half the audience across the auditorium. SLAVA'S SNOW SHOW - an international successful clowning masterpiece.
Slava Polunin - acclaimed as 'the best clown in the world' - from Ovlovsk, brought his character Asisayai to the Southbank's Winter Festival, complete with yellow boiler suit, red nose and fluffy red slippers. His style of 'Expressive Idiotism' is one to which I think we should all aspire. After all, who doesn't need more comedy falls in their life?? Because, watching the show, I had some startling flashes of insight I think it's important I share with you:
1. Falling off chairs is FUNNY
2. Massive shoes are FUNNY
3. Folding yourself up like a concertina and looking like you're the Wicked Witch of the West post-H2O: FUNNY.
And, fundamentally: we are all children. Even children - who sometimes forget it. And what better way to remind ourselves than to be in a room where paper snow flakes are falling from the sky and giant inflatable balls are zooming towards your head at an alarming rate amid shouts of 'Bash the purple one, BASH IT!'
However, although wholly playful and pushing physical comedy through a beautifully crafted lens of snow storms and magic lanterns, the dark side of The Clown was omnipresent. With the first half opening with the two clowns trying to hang themselves with either end of the same rope, morbidity and the loneliness of the outcast were the starting note. Indeed, a touch of research into Polunin's method shows that he takes his main inspiration from the 'poetic sadness of Leopnid Engibarov's clownery, the refined philosophising of Marcel Marceau's pantomime, and the humanity and comic poignancy of great Chaplin's films'.
It was also bloody beautiful. And the chorus of clowns alongside were superb. Especially the baby clown - bring back the baby clown! With scenes that gave a nod to an eclectic mix of cultural and theatrical references - his take on Woman in Black and A Brief Encounter were exceptional - and a cast of men in funny hats and long shoes, who looked like a cross between scarecrows, Puddleglum the marsh-wiggle, and shocked spaniels, the whole show was an assault on the senses and diaphragm (the Afghan students I was accompanying were mortified by how loudly I was laughing).
Slava's theatre is one where: 'It is a king of wedding cavalcade, where I try to marry everyone to everyone.' And what better way than through laughter and a GIANT snow ball fight?!!
p.s. One of my favourite moments of the show - aside from the repeated-falling-off-a-chair-sketch - was the ending where a blazing blizzard blew out into the audience, to a crescendo of O Fortuna.
A little bit of googling led me to this. Which in the spirit of clowning, I thought I would share: