Clowning is a way to navigate life’s waters: Slava’s Snowshow creator, Latest Backstage News - The New Paper
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Clowning is a way to navigate life’s waters: Slava’s Snowshow creator

The last decade has seen the public image of clowns taking a hit, no thanks to them being depicted as scary and murderous in shows such as American Horror Story (2011 to present) and Joker (2019), as well as It and its sequel (2017 to 2019).

But professional Russian clown Slava Polunin, who created the long-running theatrical production Slava’s Snowshow, is unfazed.

The 72-year-old says the child-like, humorous appeal of clowns will endure despite recent pop culture representations.

Ahead of his 90-minute stage show, which opens in Singapore on Wednesday at the Sands Theatre, he tells The Straits Times in an e-mail interview: “Jaws (the 1975 movie) demonised sharks, but people still swim in the ocean. Other films have demonised bears, but people still walk in the forest.”

Billed as a “masterpiece of clowning” and “theatrical poetic spectacle” over the years, the award-winning production – which premiered in 1993 – was staged here in 2001 at Kallang Theatre and in 2012 at Sands Theatre.

Telling its stories with visual mimicry, mime, costumes, mood and body language, the wordless show promises a dream-like world featuring a blizzard, a gigantic spider’s web and a wave of balloons bouncing off the fingertips of theatregoers.

Slava’s Snowshow stopped touring due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but resumed in early 2022.

Polunin, who will not be travelling to Singapore for the show, says: “We spent more than two years without any work or income. So we cuddled and played, waiting for the storm to pass, while imagining all the beautiful things we could still do.”

Since getting back on the road, the team has witnessed the need from audiences to discover and feel the joy provided by the show. He says: “In these uncertain times, foolishness is a way to navigate life’s waters, making the most of it without being in denial about its harsh reality.”

He adds: “Clowns are clearly becoming scarce, but this makes them so much more precious.”

For him, the art of a clown is universal, like that of a child or puppy. Clowning mostly draws on tragedy, turning it into poetry and hope.

And although the show has been around for almost 30 years, it is constantly evolving, like a tree that adapts to host many kinds of animals that come to feed and play on it, he adds.

Since its previous stagings here, the production has changed “in so many ways that we cannot keep track”.

During the show, balloons and giant rubber balls are tossed into the audience for them to bat around. PHOTO: VERONIQUE VIAL

 

And despite the distractions of social media, he says live entertainment continues to be important as it brings people together to share an experience.

Even though he is in his 70s, Polunin says he has “never felt in better shape”, thanks to the presence and love of his extended family and friends.

He adds that it would be impossible for one man alone to do more than 400 shows a year, year after year, so he created Slava’s Snowshow to be helmed by talented individuals, giving them an opportunity to blossom.

Russian clown Slava Polunin, 72, created the theatrical production Slava’s Snowshow, which premiered in 1993. PHOTO: ANNA HANNIKAINEN

 

His wife, Elena Ushakova, has acted in the production before, and so has their son Vanya, who is also a full-time clown. Their other son Dima is a technical producer for the show, as well as a full-time inventor. Both sons are in their 30s.

And just like how his own family is involved in the show, he believes multiple generations from other families will be able to enjoy it again and again.

“The show has evolved. But more importantly, so has the audience. When they return, they see a different show – very much like listening to a concert you have heard hundreds of times, but often in a different mood.”

More than three million confetti snowflakes are used for every show. Their shape, weight and thickness are designed to simulate a fluttering butterfly. PHOTO: VERONIQUE VIAL

Book It/Slava’s Snowshow

Where: Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue
When: Wednesday to Nov 13; various times
Admission: $68 to $148 via Marina Bay Sands (www.marinabaysands.com/entertainment/shows/slava-snow-show.html) and Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg/events/slava1122)

THEATRE/PLAYSCHILDREN AND YOUTHFamily