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Cirque du Soleil CORTEO at the O2 Arena

It is great to see Cirque du Soleil back in the UK, celebrating 40 years since its inception with a revival of its 2005 production: CORTEO (or cortege). This is, to quote the programme notes “a joyous procession, a festive parade imagined by a clown who envisions his own funeral in a heart-warming, carnival atmosphere”. The clown is an ebullient Italian Mauro Mozzani, who never lets his command of English get in the way of dreaming of his former loves, successes and friends.

Corteo balloons - Credit Corrine Cumming
Corteo balloons – Credit Corrine Cumming.

The trouble is that unless you have purchased one of the expensive programmes, which few seemed to have done at the performance I attended, and have read the supposed story (grey, minute face type on coloured paper is not easy!) behind each act or dream of Mauro’s, you will have no idea that there is meant to be a story at all! Does this matter? Not really – you can just sit back and enjoy the circus acts which include a trampoline team bouncing around on two giant beds, the “teeterboard” (or seesaw) which is the climax of the first half, and a superb ladder climbing/balancing act in the second part, involving trying to reach the angel flying above the stage.

However, for me, the most successful and enjoyable act, and seemingly the most effortless, was the diminutive Ukrainian Valentina Paylevanyan hanging from five gigantic helium balloons, not only floating over the stage but venturing a long way into the auditorium where she was pushed on her way upwards and onwards by members of the audience. I could have watched this for hours – interesting that something so simple can be so hypnotic and enjoyable, showing that simple pleasures are still the best!

A few of the acts were not as successful, especially those that relied on visual comedy, such as the human golf ball scene which seemed very dated and no longer funny, assuming it ever had been!

The show suits the space at the 02, which has been limited to some extent, using only two banks of seats on either side of the stage, as in a huge traverse theatre, but at the same time giving it a more intimate feel than at the Royal Albert Hall. Lacking, perhaps, the truly spectacular acts we have come to expect from Cirque du Soleil it is still a most enjoyable two hours spent in a VERY air-conditioned environment!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Corteo, which means cortege in Italian, is a joyous procession, a festive parade imagined by a clown. The show brings together the passion of the actor with the grace and power of the acrobat to plunge the audience into a theatrical world of fun, comedy and spontaneity situated in a mysterious space between heaven and earth.

The clown pictures his own funeral taking place in a carnival atmosphere, watched over by quietly caring angels. Juxtaposing the large with the small, the ridiculous with the tragic and the magic of perfection with the charm of imperfection, the show highlights the strength and fragility of the clown, as well as his wisdom and kindness, to illustrate the portion of humanity that is within each of us. The music turns lyrical and playful carrying Corteo through a timeless celebration in which illusion teases reality.

The concept and disposition of the stage bring the audience in a theatrical atmosphere like never seen before in Cirque du Soleil arena shows. The set curtains, inspired by the Eiffel Tower, and the central curtains, which were hand-painted, give a grandiose feel to the stage. This sets the tone for the poetry of Corteo.

The cast of Corteo includes 51 acrobats, musicians, singers and actors from all around the world.

At The O2, London from 13 – 17 July 2022.

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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11 thoughts on “Cirque du Soleil CORTEO at the O2 Arena”

  1. So so dissatisfied that the last Horizontal bar meets straight – the fitting farewell to Mauro was not performed today 16th July 2022.
    Ticket prices were not cheap and to cut the show was not only disappointed but felt cond and cheated.
    When asking member of the staff at the O2 for an explanation we were totally ignored.
    I feel this needs to be shared on social media as not only us as adults but children will be bitterly dissatisfied.

    1. Totally agree, nobody said anything at first and something should of been announced over the tannoy, apparently there was a problem with one of the horizontal bars and they did not have enough time to try and fix as they had to get ready for the next show an hour later.

  2. Debby Ankerson

    I think the that while you cannot fault the acrobatic displays I thought the the story was very weak . At the very end the O2 went dark and you could see some sort of parallel bars and mattresses being put up and out The lights went up the crew ran across then the cast took a bow and that was it ?!? Everyone was waiting for a big finish which simply didn’t happen very strange . These apparatus weren’t as I remember anywhere in the show . Very disappointing

  3. It was such the waste of time and money. So disappointed. Such a horrible experience.
    Watching kids jumping in bed. Cant believe they call its their jobs.

    Nothing like circus.

  4. Tricia Mulvany

    16/07/22 So sorry that the grand finale had to be abandoned! Obviously it’s better to be safe than sorry, but we had spent over £1000 to bring the family together for an exciting show. Whilst we cannot criticise any of the performances, we were left feeling deflated.

  5. Mr Benno Zeelte

    The performance before the interval was acceptable (although was expecting more acrobatics), but after the interval it was poor and the end a shambles, when the stage was dark for a minutes and we were listening to somebody playing a guitar and when the lights went back on you saw the some parallel bars and mattresses and we were anticipating a grand finale, but then the cast all came on stage and bowed to the audience and that was it. No explanation given – just end of show. We felt extremely puzzled and disappointed.
    Ps. I realise we did not read the small print about the size of bags you can take into the O2, so we left our bags reclaim area, but to charge £10 per rucksack in my book is just extortion!

  6. Very disappointed with Cirque du Soleil, first and last time I will ever watch them. I have seen better street shows along the south Bank.

  7. Do Not go and watch this show , it was cut short so we missed a whole act with no explanation ,the show just finished abruptly as they left us in the dark for 10 minutes while setting up the parallel bars there must of been a problem but instead of sorting it they just finished the show.

    Complete waste of money !!!!!

  8. Ian de Massini and Viktor Kabrits

    My partner and I have been going to see the Cirque du Soleil in the Royal Albert Hall for many years.
    Sadly, we were throughly disappointed by their recent show, in the O2 Arena.
    The use of a proscenium arch seemed to make the two very-two-dimensional,
    especially when compared to the 360 degree feel to the previous shows in the RAH.
    And the story line was weak: utterly predictable angels going up and own, and a very tedious scene involving bouncy beds, and with some beautiful playing of Spanish music played on the guitar incongruously accompanied by a pole dancer!!!! And the basic plot of it being someone’s funeral didn’t exactly lift one’s spirits as the curtain went up.
    I do hope the Cirque move back to the RAH: that’s where they can truly express themselves with large gestures, and with breath-taking displays on a grand scale. We will not buy tickets for the Cirque again if they come to the O2 arena.

    1. Agree 100% with this! We went to see Totem and Luzia at the RAH, Totem was amazing, Luzia really good, but Corteo at the O2 was not in the same league!

  9. Very underwhelmed with the performance of Corteo at the O2. We attend the performances at the Royal Albert Hall nearly every-other-year and this lacked the usual ‘wow’ factor we’ve come to enjoy and expect along with the usual audience participation. After giving feedback to Cirque du Soleil we were told that this wasn’t their production team, apologised and offered us free tickets at the next event in the Royal Albert Hall.

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