The 27 acres of land at Parklawn Road and Lake Shore Boulevard West in Etobicoke was home to the Mr. Christie’s factory from 1948-2013. I remember visiting the store section of the bakery that was open to the public to buy discounted Arrowroot cookies and products that never made it to store shelves like garlic Ritz crackers. When the factory closed down and was demolished, development plans began for condo towers at the massive site and it’s been fenced off for a decade. Until now. Cirque du Soleil has made the sprawling space home to their touring show KOOZA, which is here until June 18th.
Cirque du Soleil performs in over 90 countries and flies the flags of the countries of origin of everyone in the troupe on its Big Top, including the flag of the Russian Federation. This decision sparked controversy as there is a large concentration of people of Ukrainian descent living in the Etobicoke area of Toronto. Flying the Russian flag was criticized on social media as terribly insensitive and triggering:
Disgusting. While russian army kills civilians and destroys infrastructure, our friends and relatives are suffering from daily air raid siren and have to go to shelters, Cirque du Soleil opens the location in Ukrainian-Polish neighborhood and puts russian flag on it. @Cirque pic.twitter.com/oc0RZCQhqe— Sergiy Kulish (@Alucard_Black) April 10, 2023
In response to community concerns, Cirque du Soleil issued a statement emphasizing their non-political stance and commitment to diversity, inclusion, and respect. They explain that their goal is to inspire the local population where they perform, and that the Russian-born artists they employ are not officials of their government. The statement concludes that these artists are a part of the Cirque du Soleil family and will always be allowed and welcomed to perform in their shows. A few days after releasing the statement and continued pressure from the community, the flag was taken down.
The Cirque du Soleil mobile village takes about seven days to set up and three days to take down. The site is completely self-sufficient for electrical power and relies only on a local water supply and telecommunication facilities to support its infrastructure. 67 trailers are needed to travel more than 2,000 tons of equipment from city to city.
What is KOOZA about? It’s described as a return to the origins of Cirque du Soleil, combining two circus traditions- acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The journey is viewed through the perspective of The Innocent, an endearing yet naïve clown looking for his place in the world. KOOZA had its world premiere in April 2007 in Montréal and has since played in over 66 cities in 22 countries, on four different continents.
KOOZA opened on April 7th and runs until June 18th. The performance is 100 minutes; each half is 50 minutes long plus a 25 minute intermission. 2150 Lake Shore Blvd W, Etobicoke.