I first saw this clowning classic several years ago, and remembered it fondly enough to want to take the resident 8-year-old this time around. However, Slava's Snowshow is perhaps a one-trick (Tony-nominated) pony - a delightful dream-logic surprise for adults entering the dimly-lit blue ice cave auditorium for the first time, but not quite as recommended for multiple viewings or children.
Not all the vignettes promised by the adverts are shown, and the often disjointed scenes in this rendition are darker than I remembered: we start with Slava (Robert Saralp) putting a loose noose around his neck; later he dies an unrelated (comic) death on stage. A bust-up of misunderstanding in the second half leaves one clown totally dejected. An amusing, poignant sketch with an affectionate hat-stand sharpens the loneliness.
The small vein of creepiness was welcome. But often the very simple, traditional clown portraits of the piteousness of the human condition didn't feel deep and subtle, they felt as padded as the billow-mattress backdrop.
Sometimes we were left watching a massive pile of steam (the show has good haze machines).
The show seemed impatient with its own low energy - I hope there's an exciting new Slava act waiting to burst out. The wonderful, wild unshaven clown chorus briefly interrupted several slow scenes and came into their own - and the audience - during the "intermission". Leave your seat and you risk missing a joyous highlight.
You get a sports parade's worth of tickertape and more artificial cobweb than they store at Geoff's Emporium. But is the exhilarating bombastic finish supposed to make us forget that many of the previous 89 minutes of whimsy belong in a more intimate, less expensive space?
It's unsurprising if this long-term franchise feels a little tired. Creator Slava Polunin (not on this tour - Saralp alternates with Derek Scott) once gave a funeral for a 20-year-old theatre group (Stanislavski had said a theatre dies after 20 years of life). Slava's Snowshow started in 1993.
What: Slava's Snowshow
Where: Aotea Centre, to July 14