Huff

It’s hard to tell you to go see Huff at Summerhall’s CanadaHub, but I absolutely must. Playwright and solo performer Cliff Cardinal gives a virtuosic performance that brings painful life to facts and figures that are relatively unknown and, for the more privileged among us, almost unfathomable. It’s one thing to hear that the suicide rate for First Nations youth is five times the national Canadian average. It’s another thing to watch a fellow audience member struggle to tear off a Ziploc bag duct-taped over a man’s head. It’s one thing to know that solvent abuse is an epidemic among children and teenagers on reservations, and another to hear a convincingly prepubescent voice explain to you what it’s like to huff gasoline.

It’s hard to tell you to go see Huff, but I absolutely must.

It’s a rare one-man show that successfully conjures quite so many fully drawn characters. Cardinal plays Wind, the man explaining why he had a Ziploc bag taped over his head in a suicide attempt, as a young teenager, as well as his prepubescent younger brother, his older brother Charles, who is affected by Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, and a cast of adults and animals surrounding them. The brothers have never known life without poverty, substance abuse, and neglect, and so accept the situation as given. It’s eerie, and painful, to hear a child’s chirpy voice nag an adult until given a bottle of Lysol or explain the rules of “the pass out game,” which consists of pressing someone’s windpipe until they pass out, and then when they wake up again, it’s your turn. “If your partner’s hands are too small,” Wind explains, “or if you’re by yourself, you can use a belt!” Anything is better than the cold reality around them.

Cardinal’s voices and physicalities for each character are distinct and convincing. The stage is spare but every object on it serves many purposes, transforming in his hands or framing a new character or setting. The lighting and the sound draw the lines of various locations with an effective minimalism. Cardinal’s writing is unflinching, never cutting off a moment too soon or letting it linger for too long. His characters suffer and keep going, suffer and keep going, and in that impossible drive towards life is the “Indigenous resilience” that the publicity promises. It isn’t pretty, but it’s there.

This isn’t a play to squeeze into a packed Fringe day – it carries content warnings for suicide, substance abuse, child abuse and child sexual abuse, and I recommend at minimum a half an hour to walk it off and process. But equally, missing it would be a huge mistake. It is a story that needs telling, that bears witness to a legacy of colonialism with which we must all be confronted.

Reviews by Alex Bailey Dillon

Zoo Southside

Too Pretty to Punch

★★★★★
ZOO Playground

Progress

★★★★
Zoo Southside

Staged

★★★
Assembly Rooms

La Galerie

★★★★
Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows

Le Coup

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Backbone

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Huff is the wrenching, yet darkly comic tale of Indigenous brothers, caught in a torrent of solvent abuse and struggling to cope with the death of their mother. Their fantastic dream world bleeds into haunting reality, as they’re preyed on by the Trickster through hallways at school, the abandoned motel they love more than home, and their own fragile psyche. With his signature biting humour and raw, vivid imagery, Huff is a daring solo show by award-winning Indigenous playwright Cliff Cardinal, one of the most exciting new voices in Canadian theatre. www.canadahubfringe.com

Most Popular See More

Cinderella The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets