Royal Festival Hall, London – until 4 January 2018
When a family-friendly Christmas clown show seems more akin to Waiting For Godot rather than an act from a big top, three-ring circus, something’s gone wrong.
Slava’s Snowshow is unquestionably a masterpiece of mime artistry. The troupe of actors convincingly portray emotion with movement and facial gestures (and in a mini-cheat, via some deliberately unintelligible quacking on some oversized telephone props too) that are understood by everyone in the audience irrespective of age or nationality.
There’s also some clever stuff that shows how bed-frames, brooms and hat stands can become sources of wondrously imaginative make-believe. Momentarily, these clever performers remind us of the strange universality of body language and gesture and its ability to depict the human condition.
The trouble is that, for the most part, it’s all so damn miserable. Act One references death as well as a brief contemplation of suicide – and whilst the clown’s traditional makeup has always been on the grotesque, you be hard-pressed to describe these performers as comics. Move along please, there’s no commedia dell’arte to be seen here.
Capers ramp up in the second half with some water sprayed around, before eventually the kids in the audience are allowed to laugh hilariously when the cavernous Royal Festival Hall is transformed into a gargantuan ball pond with giant inflated spheres released for the audience to riotously punch around. There’s a “real” snowstorm too, with millions of paper snowflakes blown into the auditorium from a backstage industrial fan (the fumes of which waft in alongside the artificial blizzard. Lord alone knows how many trees may have been consumed for snowflakes over the course of this show’s global tour).
But strip away the gimmickry and it’s all a tad depressing for the older ones and too tedious, too often, for the youngsters. The inflatable-filled finale goes on far too long, leaving a lasting impression of a load of balls.