Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special (Imaginary Force and Cutline) 2019 SummerWorks Review

Picture of Cliff Cardinal in Cliff Cardinal's CBC Special

Cliff Cardinal stuns as a storyteller in Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special, now playing at the 2019 SummerWorks Festival. Presented by Imaginary Force and Cutline, the show delivers a melodic, soulful evening of powerful folk songs and stories, woven together with dark humor and expansive heart.

Cardinal commands the stage as a solo performer. From his opening song, an ode to Indigenous women, he shows himself to be an expert wordsmith. He alternates between singing, strumming, and storytelling with ease. His songs and stories are rooted in family, in struggle and endurance, in suffering and survival and subversive twists of fate. His words are heartfelt and cunning, chock-full of keen, acute observations.

His telling of his mother’s heartbreak was particularly affecting: the greatness of her brother, the cold taking of his life, the unbearable shadow of his death. His story of his niece was touching too: how intricately she built her whole world, only to have it washed away. Perhaps most chilling of all, he shared a particularly enthralling legend about a demon seductress who haunted Turtle Island. Where the truth ends and the fiction begins in his stories isn’t always clear, but the mystery intensifies the drama of his show.

Cardinal was spellbinding to watch on stage. His energy transformed the theatre, making it feel as if we were outdoors, somewhere familiar and intimate: sitting around a campfire with friends, howling with laughter and tears. He was dramatic and subversive, darkly comedic when least expected.

To be clear, this isn’t actually a CBC Special. But, if this was his audition: he certainly passed with flying colours. Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special is a recommended watch for all. It’s oozing with story, heart, and humour, and is a beautiful reflection on the experience of family. In opening the show, Cardinal said he wanted to share his “corner of the Canadian experience”. In response: what a corner it is.


Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special  is playing at the the Theatre Centre BMO Incubator (1115 Queen Street West).


  • Sunday August 11th 10:30pm – 11:30pm
  • Tuesday August 13th 9:00pm – 10:00pm
  • Wednesday August 14th 10:00pm – 11:00pm
  • Thursday August 15th 5:00pm – 6:00pm
  • Saturday August 17th 8:00pm – 9:00pm

Warning: Mature themes

Information on Tickets and Passes:

SummerWorks tickets uses a Pay What You Decide system for every show: $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level.

Advance tickets are available up until 3 hours before show time and can be purchased as follows: Online, using the Buy Ticket link found on every show page; In person at the main SummerWorks Festival Box Office the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) – open August 8-18 from 12pm-8pm. Tickets purchased in advance are subject to a convenience fee of $2.50/ticket. Any remaining tickets will be made available for sale at the performance venue starting 1 hour before show time. Venue box offices accept cash only.

Money saving passes are available if you are planning on seeing at least 4 shows.

Photo of Cliff Cardinal by Nadya Kwansibenz