Twenty years ago, Slava’s Snow Show had its North American premiere as part of the David and Ed Mirvish 1998 season of plays at the Princess of Wales Theatre. At the time, the group was so unknown that the Dodger Group in New York City had to search around for a theatre in order to bring the hit show into New York. Now, two decades later, the great Russian mime, Slava Polunin, is back in town for a short run at the Sony Centre just as the first flurries of winter begin to dust the streets of Toronto.
In honor of their return I’m republishing my original Aisle Say review below:
Describing Slava’s Snow Show is somewhat like thinking about a reverse shot of full body novocaine. One enters the theatre all numb and desensitized from the world’s brutishness. At tmes, we are all really less than we should be as human beings. Defensive, jaded, cynical, arms-length from the world around us. Too many problems, too much to think about, too many files on the overloaded hard-disk.
Then the lights dim and you begin to enter Slava’s world. It’s a much slower paced world than the one you left on the street. The world of the mime has its own dream-like rhythm that is in no hurry to get from point A to point B. Gradually the pathos and the humor begins to unfold and the novocaine begins to recede. We begin to feel again and we drop our guard. A chuckle is heard from an adult while a belly laugh emanates from a less jaded child. Slava is beginning to work his magic. Soon the chuckles turn into more free flowing – but not necessarily convulsive – laughter. I note tears coming down my cheeks and ask myself when in recent memory have I literaly “laughed until I cried.”
In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’m not going to give away the ending of the show but suffice it to say, there is a particularly Russian, almost Chekhovian quality to it. We stay with the story, we stay with the progression of events and images and sometimes wonder where on earth we are going, where is all this leading? And then BAM! You are completely freed from the numbness, your cynicism and defenses are gone and you begin to feel human once again. Your arms and legs feel light as a feather. Here we all are as one in this theatre – no, as one in this world – and we are all together in the midst of Slava’s world and our spirits are high and our souls are reborn and we want to yell with every child, woman and man: WE ARE ALIVE, WE ARE HUMAN, WE ARE HERE!!!
Thank you Slava.