Send in the Clowns

A magical work of wonder and a reminder that no one is ever too old to enjoy clowns.’ Evening Standard

It snowed in Abu Dhabi recently, really it did! Ok, it was paper snow and indoors assisted by a huge wind machine but nevertheless there was a full on snowstorm, in fact it was a blizzard! That was only a small part of the absolute chaos and sheer madness of the Slava Snowshow, that was in the capital for a series of shows at ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibiton Centre).

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Now this was not your usual clowning around as seen in the circus. There were no buckets full of confetti, silly little cars or horns, no garish checked trousers and braces but there were the familiar red noses, make up, wigs and miming. Add in bubbles, a gigantic cobweb that engulfed the entire audience as it was passed over our heads to the back of the auditorium, water sprayed from umbrellas, huge inflatable balls, balloons and the paper snowstorm and you have all the ingredients of the stage spectacular known as the Slava Snowshow. Have you ever seen a stage show where a bed becomes a boat in a make-believe storm ravaged sea, a person walking inside a life-size bubble and a clown who boards a train and then becomes the train with his chimney-pot hat billowing smoke. Nope? me either until now…….

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The teenager, the other half and myself joined a friend to witness the madness of the show that was created back in Moscow in 1989 by Russian performance artist Slava Polunin. There was no plot and it was definitely different to anything I have ever seen before with Polunin taking the audience on a magical visually striking journey through childhood and imagination, reaching out to the audience through the medium of mime.

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The unique show centres around its main character, the yellow jumpsuit clad clown Asisyai with his mad professor like hair and fluffy slippers who is outnumbered by an ensemble of mischievous green clowns identically dressed  in long baggy green coats, floppy oversized black shoes and winged hats. Another part of the charm is the accompanying score that is stuck in a musical time warp with the Chariots of Fire theme and Orff’s Carmina Burana playing through the snowstorm,  it’s all so old it’s almost new again!

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Gentle, sad-faced clowns armed with brooms and balloons bring an air of Laurel and Hardy meets Charlie Chaplin (it’s reported Polunin would mimic Chaplin as a child) to the stage. Clowns descended into the audience performing acts of petty theft keeping people in the front rows on their toes and one audience member was carried away and then chased across the stage. My favourite part was the yellow clown’s classic ’empty coat’ routine on the imaginary train platform, a sad farewell to his non-existent friend hanging on the coat rack.

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Watch out! One of the clown escaping over the chairs into the audience Image

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The never-ending world tour which has already entertained millions involves many of 63-year-old Polunin’s family who make up part of the cast. The multi-award show has toured the globe, visiting over thirty countries and 120 cities to date including London, New York and Sydney and of course Moscow. Polunin was part of Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria show before he created his Slava Snowshow extravaganza.

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Audience participation was a requirement when gigantic coloured balls were released into or should that be onto the audience and everyone was jumping up and batting them around enthusiastically, I don’t think even the most shy and reticent members of the audience could resist getting involved.

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The ecstatic finale of the show saw a letter turn into snowflakes, the flakes then turned into a snowstorm whirling around the audience assisted by the giant wind machine that literally took your breath away in more ways than one. When not blinded by the bright white light, everyone was just looking around in amazement and disbelief at the chaos that ensued and looking down we were ankle-deep in paper snow before we departed out into the blazing Abu Dhabi sunshine and reflected on the bizarre scenario we had just witnessed! Clowns will never be the same again!

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The paper snow storm begins……

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………then turns into a full on blizzard!

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And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, the teenager got to meet a clown up close and personal and doesn’t she look thrilled.

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Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014. All rights reserved.