>reviewed by daniel lim

>date: 10 apr 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: kallang theatre
>rating: ****1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


Expectations can be an evil thing. Expectations can abhorrently amplify disenchantment, or magnify gratification to unrealistic proportions. In other words, expectations have the capability to deflate enjoyment of any performance - fast.

With SLAVA'S SHOWSHOW, my expectations were so high that any minor slip-up would send my gratification into the abyss of anguish. To my huge relief it met up to the unrealistic expectations I set. It was pure delight to be part of, and to my surprise the child in me came out to play.

The cast, costumes, set, and music flawlessly morphed into the fairytale, Peter Pan-ish surreal wonder that is SLAVA'S SHOWSHOW. The child in me was enticed, wooed, and spellbound by the clowns shuffling around in their glorious canary-yellow and apple green baggy outfits, floppy hats, red noses and "Ronald" flip-flops. Slava Polunin, the creator and head jester, and his fellow clowns created drama, tragedy and comedy with their all-so-clear facial expressions and exaggerated actions, spinning a tale of fantasy, without any need for words, just interpretations.

The drama and fun kept smoldering right up to my face, never for once allowing itself to be constrained to the stage, what with Slava's top hat going up in smoke and his suitcase hissing exhaust in its transformation to a 'Choo-Choo' train blaring down the stage into the audience and the waves of cobweb engulfing the audience prior to the attack of the huge creepy spider, climaxing in the blinding snowstorm exploding from the stage surging towards the audience. Even during the interval and at the end, there was no reprieve, with the clowns walking on seats, chasing children, generally tickling the audience and the release of multi-coloured, giant air balls for all children (be they young, preserved or pickled) to muck around with.

Then in an unfortunate moment of clarity, I grew up.

>>'The musical choreography was enticing, with opera, classical, samba and jazz'

Each enactment of a scene in SLAVA'S SNOWSHOW tells a message, but only together is the interpretation totally complete. I say "interpretation" as SLAVA is all about in theatrical ambiguity, always teasing and coaxing one to return to the deep recesses of child psyche and imagination, in order to personalize, then comprehend. My only gripe was that the actual performance was too short (1hr 15mins), but I guess after that my own imagination takes over.

The musical choreography was enticing, with opera, classical, samba and jazz; all adding up to paradoxically sculpt and shape reason and gibberish, emotion and anesthesia, significance and inconsequentiality, into the dream that is SLAVA'S SNOWSHOW. A clown laughs at society's ills, while we laugh at the clown.

In retrospect, SLAVA'S SNOWSHOW examines loneliness in all its aspects; of the means, and the extent of suffering one is willing to endure in the quest to vanquish this loneliness.

From the onset, Slava mocks the individual, dragging in a rope, suggesting a pet. He then nooses it over his head, suggesting suicide, the coward's way of fighting back. He then proceeds to sail in a bed, a journey that is abruptly interrupted with the knocking of the door, suggesting escapism into imagination to find meaning - in living perhaps? The scenes where a winged clown (?) riddles him with arrows, at the train station with the clothes-stand lover, and the packaged mannequin at the doorstep imply the other side of friendship, the impermanence of love and unexpected betrayal. Yet, with unbridled optimism, Slava trudges on into the snow, wistfully hoping to find salvation, and ending off in obliteration in the middle of a snowstorm (to the music of Carl Orff). This dismal ending paints a picture of the futility of hope and life; and the insignificance of the individual in relation to the whole.

Comic tragedy- a paradox that somehow really works. In SLAVA'S SNOWSHOW, the discovery is within the individual. Skim the surface and laugh at the antics; then Slava dares you to plunge into the soul and really, really look.

I laugh at the clown, and the clown laughs at me…