Slava’s Snow Show

Dec 5 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩    Physical poetry

Festival Theatre: Wed 3 – Sat 6 Dec 2014

Some impressive clowning and clever stagecraft make Slava’s Snow Show a diverting seasonal entertainment, even if it is short on genuine magic.

Despite the title, there is nothing particularly Christmassy about the show, and the use of artificial snow generally confined to one sequence. The central figure, a clown in a crumpled, baggy yellow suit, performs in a series of unconnected, wordless sketches – some rooted in a kind of realism, some more poetic or surreal.

Standing up clowns. Photo: Vladimir Mishukov

Standing up clowns. Photo: Vladimir Mishukov (previous tour).

The creator of the show, Slava Polunin, who has toured this production successfully for years now, often plays this part himself. However, he rations himself to one show a day, and the role was filled on this occasion by Artem Zhimolokhov, whose effortless physicality and engaging personality more than compensated.

He is aided or hindered by a troupe of green-clad clowns sporting huge ears who, like the yellow clown, have a down-at-heel version of the traditional make-up. The pendulous nose, down-turned and scuffed mouth, and apparent stubble makes them appear rather forbidding and melancholy, and the slow, considered air of much of the movement is far from what might be expected. For anyone who has a distaste for clowns, this performance might be a useful corrective.

There can be little doubt about the quality of the physical clowning, and there are moments of genuine poetry. However, there is a sameness about some of the routines, and the second half drags a bit.

If you find funny voices and falling over funny in themselves without needing to be used in the service of anything, then it will be fine, but there is a lack of imagination in some of the sequences. Towards the end there is a reliance on the more sentimental end of clowning that makes some of Chaplin an uncomfortable watch these days.


This sentimentality goes against the show’s stated aim of reconnecting the audience with their childlike state, as it relies on a nostalgia that is surely an adult preserve. The first half – with its delight in, for example, sailing a bedstead boat through shark-infested seas, comes much closer in its spirit of discovery and sheer anarchism to real childhood play.

Greens on stilts in dark. Photo: Veronique Vial (previous tour).

Greens on stilts in dark. Photo: Veronique Vial (previous tour).

Indeed, there is probably more to appeal to adults than to children here. The show is not recommended to under 5s, but there is a definite possibility of children older than that being a little bewildered.

Each half ends with a big effect whose sheer scale makes up for most previous shortcomings. Without giving too much away, it should be said that sitting in the front stalls would give most value from the experience. Plus, it might be advisable not to stay too far from your seats at the interval or rush off too quickly at the curtain call.

Perhaps the long-term success of the show has led to a certain lack of freshness, or perhaps that very success leads to unrealistic expectations. At any rate, there is much to admire here, even if it is not as impressive or memorable as it might be.

Running time 1 hour 45 minutes including interval
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Wednesday 3 – Saturday 6  December 2014
Evenings 7.30 pm, Matinees Thurs and Sat 2.30 pm; Friday times 5.00 pm and 8.30 pm
Tickets from

Slava’s Snow Show Autumn Tour 2014:

3 – 6 Dec 2014 Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
9 – Sat Dec 2014 Manchester
The Lowry
0843 2086000 Book online
17 Dec 2014 – 5 Jan 2015 London
Royal Festival Hall
0844 875 0073 Book online


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