World-renowned Russian artist and clown Slava Polunin has collaborated with acclaimed British film director Terry Gilliam and an international team of performers to create a new show, “Diabolo”, whose world premiere takes place this week in Tel Aviv, March 2-14. The show promises to be whimsical, phantasmagorical, and avant-guard.
Known around the world for his clown act, Slava Polunin will premiere his new show in Israel.
“The goal of our ensemble is to enjoy our lives as much as possible in the company of good friends,”says Polunin, speaking of his enjoyment of the creative process in his native Russian from his Paris home in a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post.
“To create, we just need a few friends around us,” Polunin continues, and Gilliam, who will also fly to Israel for the occasion, is an essential one. Gilliam, of Monty Python fame, is famous not only for his acting, directing, screen-writing, animating, and special effects work for the Monty Python movies and television series, but more recently for directing feature films, such as Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. His films feature such famous actors Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and Matt Damon.
“I adore him and I admire his films,” enthuses Polunin, “his sense of phantasmagoria is amazing.”
During the seven years he spent in London developing his own international career as a clown, Polunin met with Gilliam several times.
“In London, Terry used to come to our show and we spoke a lot. So when we invited him to join the creative process with us, he agreed without hesitation.”
“I love the British audience,” Polunin continues, “we enjoy a wonderful understanding. I learned from my experiences in London, and from the criticisms of the British theater crowd. ”
Britain is only one of the places that have been spellbound by Polunin’s artistic work. Now his clowning has spread over continents:
“My ‘Snow Show’ runs in New York, my theater office is in London, my home and experimental theater center are in Paris, I perform in Russia and run major projects, like Peace Caravan, with tens of international theaters performing in big cities.”
Although the “Snow Show”, his most famous production, has been performed throughout the world and continues to be successful, recently, Slava decided to create a new piece with a different dimension of feeling:
How does Slava Polunin describe his new work?
“Diabolo” is about the clash of two spaces, “the space of the funny and the space of the fearful. It is about things which are beyond our rational perception of life, about our fears and the laughter as the only weapon to fight it.”
Like many of Polunin’s productions, this show will be without words. “I create pantomime shows because there are things which words fail to capture, so I’ll just try to explain it.”
Polunin reveals that there will be two major characters on stage: One who symbolizes the dark, mysterious force just beyond our ken, and a second who resists that evil force. Although he refers to these two as Diabolo (the Devil) and Joker, Polunin immediately cautions that he even does not give definite names to these two characters: “They are like thoughts which are always with us. They represent different beliefs about the nature of humanity. One claims that humans are mean, cowardly and cruel, while the other knows that if you believe in them, human beings are capable of bravery and purity. These two beliefs are always at odds. Although my shows almost never have anything like a moral, this time it is about this unity and harmony of opposite principles.”
Polunin, who researched folk theater and coupled it with the modern stage art, says that apart from an elegant performer in the role of Diabolo (Estonian actor Stanislav Varrki) and a sloppy Joker (Polunin himself), the stage is populated with strange creatures, including harpies and a horse in a red coat.
“We’ll begin rehearsals in Paris and continue them in Tel Aviv. We’ll just start by improvising and see where it brings us,” explains Polunin. “For our pieces, it takes at least a year to crystallize, and every evening is different.”