SLAVA’S Snowshow comes to Milton Keynes Theatre next week. Here the normally shy little clown takes us backstage to talk about his remarkable show.
Slava Polunin is a legend in his profession. The Russian Master Clown is founder of the Academy of Fools and creator of the famed Slava’s Snowshow - the world’s most inspired and inspiring spectacle, now celebrating 15 years on the stage.
The show is unlike anything you have ever seen before – a world of wonder, in which a bed becomes a boat, a web of cotton envelops the audience and one tiny piece of paper becomes a snowstorm that will, quite literally …. BLOW YOU AWAY.
It is a stunning spectacle of beautifully crafted theatrical clowning, combining the unbridled silliness of slapstick with visual extravagance and beauty, all of which has established Slava as a creative genius of international acclaim.
Polunin, 56, had few toys as a child so the young Slava made his own entertainments, using his fertile imagination, making up stories, relying on folklore, and running free in the local woods. He became expert at building tree houses, and put on shows for his friends.
Hardly surprising, then, that when he was packed off “as a fairly bright kid”, to study engineering in Leningrad, he instead joined a mime troupe.
He says: “My work cannot really be called clowning, for my main objective is to break down borders and restrictions. But a clown is really like a child – we have immediacy and a freedom, as children do. It is impossible for a child to sit still for more than five minutes, and, like clowns they always demand to be the centre of attention.”
Slava has around 60 people in various parts of the world that he calls on to join him when puts a show together. He recently held auditions in his native Russia and 1,000 would-be performers turned up to work with him. He selected 20 to go with him on a river voyage to discover and hone their skills. Of the 20, he picked two. Only one of the two now is a full-time clown in Slava’s tradition.
His mission, he thinks, is “to get the audience to open up, and to be a lot more creative within themselves. But I know from experience that what makes them hysterical in Britain will get a completely different reaction in Tokyo. They will see different interpretations of what I do.”
He has an extensive library of DVDs and videos of many of the great comics, mimes and clowns, a large proportion of them from silent films. He adores Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, and champions the almost-forgotten Harry Langdon. “You see, silent film transcends the boundaries”, he says, “You didn’t have to crack a verbal gag. You saw what those people were going through. Why is Langdon obscured by the others now? Possibly because he never used huge action sequences. He was a more intimate performer.”
Then Slava reels off British performers that he admires, among them Tommy Cooper and Max Wall “both great visualists”, and, to a lesser extent “Norman Wisdom and Benny Hill. I love Monty Python, too – they were a great intellectual team, never mind about the humour!”
Slavba’s Snowshow runs at Milton Keynes Theatre from November 2 - 6. For tickets call the box office 0844 871 7652 or go online www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes