CLIFF CARDINAL’S CBC SPECIAL by Cliff Cardinal (Imaginary Force/Cutline/SummerWorks). At the Theatre Centre BMO Incubator. Aug 13 at 9 pm, Aug 14 at 10 pm, Aug 15 at 5 pm, Aug 17 at 8 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN
The utterly charming Cliff Cardinal makes it clear early on that his show is in no way actually connected to the CBC. He says he just wanted “a sexy and flashy title to lure in the audience,” which of course gets a huge laugh, the first of many in this highly entertaining production.
Modelled on the style of old variety shows, Cardinal sings original songs (proficiently accompanying himself on electric guitar) and tells stories about growing up Canadian and Indigenous.
Although there are many funny moments, this show has no filler. The humour is sly and the stories profound, looking at issues like substance abuse, poverty, lack of education and cultural appropriation. With straightforward staging by Karin Randoja, the show forgoes flashiness and there’s not even a fancy introduction: Cardinal just comes out onstage, picks up his guitar and starts right in with a rockabilly song dedicated to Indigenous women.
His stories are rich in detail and the people in them come fully to life. He even pays tribute to his mother, actor, activist and Member of the Order of Canada, Tantoo Cardinal.
Opening night ran overtime by about 10 minutes which could be an issue if you have to get to another show, but no one minded. Based on the audience’s cheers, the end comes too quickly.