Snark du Soleil

So coming into town on I-5 today after a week in not-so-sunny southern California, I notice the Grand Chapiteau of Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil has once again taken up temporary residence in the brownfield beneath the Marquam bridge.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of a at least one thing Canadian, and even a French Canadian or two. But there’s something about French Canadian clowns and their production sensibility that doesn’t do it for me.

Somebody will surely be able to set me straight on the shows Cirque has done in Portland, but I saw one show (Dralion?) around 1999 and another (Saltimbanco?) a couple-few years later.

There’s a lot of great things to say about Cirque du Solel — they don’t use animals, the circus artistry is top notch and comes from all around the world, and the tech is high end and extremely well executed. Both shows I saw had a variety of acts woven into a narrative acted out by clowns, musicians and acrobats. Contortion, aerial and floor acrobatics, juggling and shows of strength are all represented. (Not so much on the side show stuff, so don’t expect anything like the good ol’ Jim Rose Circus. It’s just a little different than that.)

But what I can’t take (besides the $50-$250 tickets) is the tone of the show. Everything is slicker than slick, breezy as hell, and just generally, eh, a little too twee for moi.

The first show I saw actually had clowns playing the guitar/synth rock soundtrack. I’m thinking, come on, people, didn’t Kiss do this in 1975? I also found myself thinking, damn, they sure do rely a lot on third-world child labor (lots of kid performers).

Cirque du Soleil is pretty much a the French Canadian Disney of the human circus industry. (And that’s coming from somebody who just spent some time at Disneyland.) It’s definitely worth seeing once, even if you (like me) don’t care so much for clowns of any kind, much less French Canadian clowns. The circus artistry and stagecraft alone are worth it, even if the production is a bit overwrought.

Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo plays Portland March 1 through April 6.

2 Comments so far

  1. ElGordo (unregistered) on February 25th, 2008 @ 10:03 am

    My friend and I got temp jobs working for the show that was here in 2002. She dated a clown (sorry, performer) for a while, and I found out that calling someone a clownf**ker is extremely satisfying.

  2. Steve (unregistered) on February 25th, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

    Heh heh heh… clownf**ker.

    So they let the clowns off the reservation while they’re in town, eh?

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