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Photo: Lucas Saporiti. Costume Design by Dominique Lemieux.

Review: Corteo by Cirque de Soleil—until 07.01.18

By Jared Davidson on June 29, 2018

Cirque du Soleil has become a known quantity. Founded in 1984, the Montreal company currently tours a plethora of shows across the globe, has become a staple of Vegas, and is considered one of the most impressive anythings in the entire world.

Photo: Lucas Saporiti. Costume Design by Dominique Lemieux.

These people are fit, talented, and brave in ways that I can not ever imagine being.

But sometimes it’s boring to watch. Like anything impressive, Cirque must constantly up the ante, forever pushing its own boundaries in order to continue to wow and delight audiences. What I’ll call the “Cirque-effect” refers to that point in any performance of theirs when you become so desensitized to all the impressive things happening that you cease to be impressed. “Oh wow,” you say, “that tumbler just did something I didn’t even know was possible with the human body and I’m out of popcorn.” You sit through the rest of the performance contemplating whether buying another $13 bag of popcorn is worth it. You decide it isn’t.

Photo: Lucas Saporiti. Costume Design by Dominique Lemieux.

This is why reviewing Cirque is such a weird exercise. On the one hand, these people are fit, talented, and brave in ways that I can not ever imagine being. On the other, there are parts of these shows that drag, and the Cirque-effect makes you forget that you’re essentially watching human-body sorcery.

Corteo is another in a line of Cirque shows that continues to befuddle critics. So much of this show is jaw-droppingly amazing, that I could spend at least a thousand words on the use of hoops.

Photo: Lucas Saporiti. Costume Design by Dominique Lemieux.

So much of this show is jaw-droppingly amazing.

But I did feel a little bored at times. Whether or not that’s a true mark against Cirque, I don’t know. Because they really do try their best. It’s just that, when one scene features some kind of synchronized wheel-man magic, the next scene has some kind of drum solo synced up to see-saw trampolining, and the scene after that features someone being launched into the audience strapped to balloons, the part of your brain that pays attention to things starts to get a little confused. What is important here? What is cool, impressive?

Photo: Lucas Saporiti. Costume Design by Dominique Lemieux.

It’d be like if all you ate was ice cream. After a while, you’d probably get bored of ice cream.

And then imagine that ice cream also had some pockets of ham in it. Because there’s plenty of ham in a cirque show. About one third of Corteo is spent yucking it up like a bunch of clowns, and while that’s fine, it’s followed by more death-defying mind-meltingness. Maybe I don’t want ham in my ice cream.

Photo: Lucas Saporiti. Costume Design by Dominique Lemieux.

But then, maybe the ham is what keeps the whole cone from falling apart completely? Because if it was all as intense as it can get, I’d be on the cold concrete floor of the Canadian Tire Centre, begging for another $12 beer to get me through this panic attack of a performance.

The bottom line is this: Corteo is a Cirque du Soleil show. It’s a series of pretty much unbelievable things, strung together by a loose story involving someone dying and experiencing the afterlife, and punctuated by strange, often too-long sections of ham-fisted slapstick comedy. It simultaneously pushes boundaries and pushes none. It’s exactly what you’d expect it would be, yet it always surprises you.

Photo: Lucas Saporiti. Costume Design by Dominique Lemieux.

It’s probably as good a reason to get out to Kanata as any. On the other hand, the traffic getting out of the parking lot was unbelievable in a way that even Cirque cannot touch. Maybe the real impressive thing is that the circus, well over 30 years in existence, keeps attracting sold-out crowds across the world. It’s not without warrant, that’s certain. They do amazing, amazing work.

However, sometimes you don’t want ice cream or ham. It’s important to be honest about that.


Corteo by Cirque du Soleil is playing at the Canadian Tire Centre until July 1, 2018. There are two performances daily. See here for showtimes. Tickets cost $40–125 online.