BY: JESSICA BEUKER
On the outskirts of Paris sits a house with a psychedelic caravan parked outside. Lush gardens line the perimeter and the inside has a design so surreal it must have been dreamt up by the severely mercury-poisoned Mad Hatter. But this home belongs to a different type of madness. And you don’t need to fall down a rabbit hole to get there. Drifting down an idyllic river on a rickety, iron bed, a white-haired man with a yellow raincoat and a big, bright red nose is at ease in the role he was born to play – a clown.
Sixty-five-year-old Russian clown, Slava Polunin began his incredible career over four decades ago. According to CNN, what started out as a fascination developed into a probable career path for Polunin after he watched Charlie Chaplin in The Kid. A child at the time, he went to school in his father’s hat, boots and cane – emulating Chaplin, he made the other kids laugh all day.
Polunin became very fascinated with the way movement could convey so much emotion. He studied dances from around the world and he would imitate everything from Disney characters to kids, insane people, drunks, and animals stating, “these movements are not limited by intellect.” Polunin described his inspirations in an interview with CNN: “The perfect example is to see a child playing on a playground, or running around a forest — this is how humankind used to be originally – genuine and excited. These movements evoke a desire to follow.”
Polunin’s career has been filled with many highs including performing on state television throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It was there that he would mock authorities – making parodies out of communist restrictions – and get away with it. Because no actual words were being used, Polunin could convey important messages without actually saying them. Later in his career he created the “Academy of Fools,” an international organization uniting clowns, and “Caravan of the World,” a travelling theatre. Today, Polunin is one of the most notable clowns in the business – performing in 50 countries across the world.
But Polunin is not your average over-the-top circus clown. He puts a lot of thought into all of his actions, stating to CNN: “Today my perception of clowning is that you should be able to move just one centimeter and get a reaction from the audience as if you moved an entire mountain.” He also changes his routines based on the different countries he visits, noting that each culture has a different sense of movement and humour.
In all areas of his life, Polunin keeps the creativity and fun alive. According to Messy Nessy Chic, he even hosts visitors at his Dali-meets-Disney wonderland. And the list of oddities – including five kaleidoscopic gardens, book trees, walls you can walk through, flower beds you can sleep in, staircases that melt into the walls, giants living in trees, a giant egg house, horses with pink wings, and a Buddhist temple – is enough to make your head spin.
Polunin is going to be featured in an upcoming documentary, “Secrets of Snow – Slava’s Journey,” which will surely be a majestic and hypnotically visual ride.