[ON STAGE]A Midsummer Winter WonderWhen was the last time you felt a sense of wonder from seeing a play? Perhaps there has been a shift in audiences' taste in modern theater toward conceptual plays and away from puppet shows or mime. Words like "awe" and "sentimentality" in theater criticism are derogatory and are often used to describe a lack of substantial content.
In "Snowshow," a non-verbal performance by five eccentric clowns, "fantasy" and "wonder" are the hallmarks of the theater troupe. And yet the group manages to satisfy many critics' aesthetic criteria.
The Russian mime troupe Litsedei has won many awards in play festivals from London to Edinburgh to Cannes. The troupe is led by Slava Polunin, the lead clown who is dressed in yellow in the play. Polunin left his hometown in Orel, Russia, at 17 to study engineering in Leningrad before joining the traditional mime troupe.
"Snowshow" is a comic vignette set in a Siberian snow field. A show of mime and circus stunts, the performance constantly encourages viewer participation. The clowns frequently bound over to the audience and engage children by throwing giant balloons or passing around a large cotton puff. During the intermission, the clowns emerge from behind the curtain and toss buckets of white confetti to simulate snow for the audience.
"Snowshow" makes good use of the audiences' reaction; the show may in fact rely entirely on this element. The troupe describes the performance as "a work in progress," and the show is continually adapting its repertoire according to the places they are performing, introducing new elements every time. The frequent visual highlights and special effects in the performance, especially the snowstorm scene near the end, are spectacles the viewers can only experience at the LG Arts Center, although a fringe theater would have worked better for the mime elements.
Because the performance is at any given time mostly a one man show, and the scale of actors' body movements are at first relatively small and subtle compared to those of other mimes, the performance may seem unimpressive at first to some audience members. However, if you bear with it for the first 20 minutes, you will be able to enjoy the rest of the performance, and will marvel at the ending.
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by Park Soo-mee