Stargazing

At home with Slava Polunin

Published: 3:40 AM, November 8, 2012

Greetings and salutations, fellow stargazers! It was a huge honour for Showbiz Sista to be invited to the world famous clown Slava Polunin's house, and certainly an experience that money can't buy. Slava is the creator of Slava's Snowshow, which has been taking the art of clowning to new heights for nearly 20 years now. And his home reflects his lack of regard for the boundaries of imagination.
Slava and his wife Elena live at the incredibly fantastical Moulin Jaune (Yellow Windmill), just outside of Paris.

It's a converted old mill that looks pretty normal from a distance...

But isn't so normal up close.

The white room is where Slava's son, Ivan, bunks.

The nursery is for his two young granddaughters.

The blue-and-white French toile room was painstakingly put together with handmade things.

Outside is a whole other fantasyland.

This is the caravan reserved for writers.

Inside the caravan.

Mongolian yurt.

Inside the yurt.

Slava's bed-boat.

It's meant to be whatever you want it it be! I say headless four-legged chicken

The decor inside

The decor outside!

Giant egg circus ring.. With some chickens for scale

The Ship Of Fools

Slava gets some practice in...

A "thing that makes interesting sounds"


The Korean temple built by Slava's monk friends.
After the tour of the house and grounds, we had lunch outdoors, at a long mirrored table at which “while you are eating, you can see the sky”, in an overgrown garden studded with carved-wood pagodas and statuettes carted back from India – one of Slava’s many favourite places because “they are not going anywhere. They are already where they need to be”.


We were joined by Slava’s family, who perform alongside him. “One of my sons is a clown in the Snowshow, the other one is the technical director. And my two granddaughters (aged seven and one) are already on the stage,” Slava said. “Elena is an actress and a director, and she is the source of inspiration for everybody, starting from me and our children.”
Is there a romantic story of how Elena and Slava met? Elena said: “I imagined myself as a girl my grandmother’s stories, waiting on an ice floe for a knight in shining armour to come. And along came this clown on a donkey!”
Clowns in plain-clothes disguise are a lot more common than you’d think. “If three people get together, one of them always will take on the responsibility of being the clown. Man is compelled to do something in the wrong way, stupidly or awkwardly,” Slava said.
It’s this instinct that he takes advantage of. “There are two different ways of influencing the world or changing the world,” he said. “One is criticism – I don’t like that. Instead, I try to create more harmonious places for people to get inspired. I don’t want to say to a child, ‘Don’t do that.’ Instead: ‘Just come here; look at what is here on the other side.’”
Like a curious child, Slava already has a list of things he wants to do in Singapore, which he hasn’t visited since the Snowshow was last here 11 years ago. What does he think of a country where it doesn’t snow at all?
“I feel sorry for you,” Slava said, with a laugh. “I think snow is one of the best things in the world. In the fall, everything is grey and there is dirt everywhere. When the snow comes, it covers the whole world with white. It looks like a bride’s wedding dress. It looks like a white sheet of paper on which a poet can write. And of course children like to have snowball fights – it’s probably the funniest game in the world. At the same time, there is danger attached to the snow, to the cold, to ice. And the beauty and the danger are brought together, which makes it even more beautiful. I associate the snow with my childhood, with my world and through the snow, you can explain the world, it seems to me.”
Like snowflakes, no two Snowshows are the same. “I think that if you go to see the show a few times during the same week, each time, your impression will be different,” Slava said. “Each time, we play it differently, and the results sometimes surprise even us. Actually, this show is not a narrative. It’s a place where people like being and want to come back to.”
And that’s probably why the Snowshow is still so well-received after so many years. “If you treat something that you have created as something dead and definitive, of course it will be boring and it will get worse with the years,” Slava said. “But if you just consider it as something alive, of course it will be better and better.”
Where does 62-year-old Slava get his inspiration and motivation to keep going after all these years?
“We have this fantastic opportunity and possibility to find ourselves in this world,” he said. “Just the fact that we live in this world and we were born here, it’s a fantastic thing that happened to us. It would be a pity for us, I think, not to explore all the possibilities that exist during our lifetime here. I can’t stop myself. I always want to go over the horizon to see what is happening there. With the years going by, I just discover so many wonderful things in my friends and in the people around me or in the people I meet in the street.”
Slava’s Snowshow runs from Aug 28 to Sep 9 at the Sands Theatre. Tickets from S$65 to S$150 from Sistic.