Sad clowns with giant balls

Who would have known that it was such a good combination?

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Yep, I went to see Slava’s Snowshow at South Bank Centre a couple of days ago. It’s a show that relies heavily on visual effects, audience interaction, humour and symbolism. It mixes dark themes with a good helping of comedy and it’s almost like Salvador Dali had a hand in designing the scenes. Despite that the story is pretty tragic, it seems to be very popular with children. Before explaining the story, I should point out that it’s a “mute” show. The characters sometimes speak in their made-up language, but the story is mostly told through body language and visual or musical symbolism.

The story follows a tragic clown, Slava, who in the beginning of the show is about to attempt suicide before he is interrupted. The way I interpret the rest of the show is that Slava meets someone who slowly makes him awake from his depression and start living again, but they have a falling out when Slava develops romantic feelings for his friend. His broken heart makes him spiral into depression once again. As he tries to get over his friend, he ends up triggering more feelings that ends up consuming him. This is depicted by Slava trying to clean away cobweb, but as he cleans, more and more cobweb comes out until Slava is stuck in it and it starts covering the entire audience. When the friend attempts to rekindle their friendship, they end up fighting and Slava says some very hurtful things that makes his friend go away for good. Wallowing in regret, Slava imagines himself apologizing and reconnecting with his friend, through playing out phone conversations and a very cool scene where he manipulates a coat on a coat hanger to act like his friend. During the latter scene, he finds the courage to let go and leave and that’s “kind of” where the show ends. I say kind of, because there’s actually two more scenes after that, but I’m not sure if they are a part of the story or just to give the show a great send-off. I guess you could interpret both scenes as separate alternative endings to the show.

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The first scene is Slava arriving somewhere after saying goodbye to his friend. It starts snowing and Fortuna starts playing in the background as a scared Slava gets stuck in a giant snowstorm. While everyone in the audience loved being bombared with fake snow (one of the only time I felt like I had an advantage because of my glasses. I didn’t have to shield my eyes from the fake snow like everyone else, so I got more out of the scene), the only interpretation I can think of is that Slava is in emotional turmoil and that he finally is overpowered by it or at least facing his biggest challenge yet.

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The other scene, which might just be the cast saying goodbye, is Slava and his friend reuniting and throwing giant balls out on the audience. When I say giant balls, I really mean GIANT balls. I think the biggest one must have been 5 metres (16 ft?) in diameter. That’s when the show officially ended and everyone in the audience started bouncing the balls through the hall and throwing fake snow at each other. It really got everyone going; parents were holding their toddlers up in the air to get a chance to touch the balls and elderly couples were throwing fake snow at each other. I’m surprised no one got hurt, because I saw several toddlers getting their face “smashed” by the big balls. But no, they just looked confused for a second, and then started laughing. I prefer this as the final scene, because I like happy endings.

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Anyhow, like I said above, the show is “mute” and a lot of the scenes are open to interpretation. Like Tom said, there probably isn’t a symbolic meaning to everything in it either. Some things are probably just there for comedy or because they look cool. I’m sticking with my interpretation of it and I haven’t read any other reviews of the show. It’s fun, dramatic, confusing and beautiful and even if my interpretation isn’t correct, I definitely recommend people to go see the show if they have a chance. Fair warning though, my floor at home was covered in fake snow for a few days afterwards.

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