I emerged with snow in my hair, cobwebs on my jacket and completely discombobulated. My plus one Ella, who informs me she is a whole 8 years old, came out on a high after the bizarre mayhem that has just occurred. When asking Ella if she understood what we had just seen she said “of course” and produced a hand full of snow from her handbag, which she then threw into the air.
We had just emerged from Slava’s world having been bamboozled by things you can’t even begin to imagine. I’m still trying to gather my thoughts, so i’ll do my best to explain whatever it is I experienced that night.
I am pretty convinced there wasn’t a plot but I am leaning towards the notion that it didn’t exactly need one. However it would have stopped me questioning everything for most of Act 1 and 2 until I finally gave up around three quarters of the way through and started to embrace the madness. There was a clear theme of loneliness and lament throughout the show, which the main yellow clown in particular experienced but I am not convinced there was meaning behind the scenes, jokes or moments.
The yellow clown with red furry feet was at the focal point of the play because of his isolation from his seven fellow clowns (who were green, gangly and gormless). Their individual quirks shone in each of the scenes, from taking a balloon for a walk, to sailing the high seas on a four poster bed. Each minute was as random as the last – mood ever changing and direction constantly fluctuating.
The atmosphere felt eerie, but also daft, a sort of children’s horror story. I couldn’t help thinking that despite there being little to no speaking, though when there was it was done in silly voices and in Russian (I believe), that some of the jokes were a little lost in translation. It must be difficult to find humour that is internationally appreciated, which is something I think they have achieved.
This specific production has toured around the world in countries from Ireland to Israel. Having success with some, and causing disappointment amongst others. Reading other people’s reviews, they seem mixed, which I entirely understand. I pinpoint the success down to it’s three major stunts (spoiler alert): a giant web that entangles you, the cold blast of a snow blizzard, and giant colourful snowballs, which are the cherry on top of an evening of mayhem.
As I said, the humour had to be universally applicable, and it was. This meant the humour was quite simplistic and subtle. Sometimes this didn’t quite translate in the Hippodrome’s three tiered auditorium, nor did it quite reach some of the younger children in the audience. However the simple humour pleased most, and satisfied all the children’s funny-bones no end. Ella spent most of the evening howling with laughter, picking her jaw up off the floor, and hiding behind her hands. She said “The cobweb was the best bit”.
“I still don’t understand” said the young boy next to me of no more than 10, and to be honest neither. He loved it but was left bewildered, as I think most of us were. That was the strangest part. I loved it, but I don’t exactly know what I loved. It was amusing and bemusing. You kind of need to see it, even if you don’t understand anything.
So I recommend you go, but keep an open mind and prepared to be baffled in more ways than one. I also recommend you get a seat in the front half of the stalls and don’t leave for too long in the interval to make sure you really get the full experience.