The Cave Collective presents…

music by John Millard
lyrics by Tomson Highway
book by Martha Ross

The Cave is a 75-minute cabaret event that ingeniously addresses the climate crisis. Created by celebrated Canadian Artists  John Millard, Tomson Highway, and Martha Ross, this interspecies song-cycle is told with song and narration through the perspective of animals.


“I was born and raised in the completely natural environment, specifically in Manitoba where it meets Nunavut and Saskatchewan. It was completely safe, and a blissful experience to live in that “garden.”

And a true garden it was.

Now, a half-century later, it is no longer safe to live up there. The reason? Forest fires. Hundreds of them every summer. In Fort McMurray’s fire two summers ago some 2,000 people lost their homes. How many animals lost theirs? The destruction was, and is, gargantuan. That is to say, the current state of global warming is THEIR eviction from the garden. And it is ours.”


A group of animals flee from a vicious forest fire and seek refuge in Bear’s cave. Waiting out the inferno, they reflect on their lives, their lost garden, and their impending doom. These unlikely and singed bedfellows share their stories and take comfort in their newfound community while the fire encroaches.


At times comical, at times dramatic and tragic, the evening is hosted by a wry and charming MC played by the composer, Millard, himself. The four performers sing seventeen stirring songs in English and Cree, playing abstractions of Bear, Moose, Beaver, Skunk, Snake, Wolf, Crow, and Fox. The cabaret band supports the style with wild, beautiful, poignant, and entertaining orchestrations. Part Nightclub, part Cave, the show stimulates discussion about our planet’s precarious survival in the context of exceptional art, offering an affirmative and cathartic experience.

It is a sublime assemblage of multidisciplinary art, showcasing what makes Canada astounding and unique on the international arts landscape. The Cave is as entertaining as its themes are timely and has audiences leaping to their feet.


In September 2018, Soulpepper Theatre hosted a week long workshop of  The Cave in Toronto, Ontario. With performers and musicians, a video crew presented a national webcast test of a selection of the material.

In June 2019, The Cave was part of LUMINATO, Toronto’s International Arts Festival at Soulpepper’s Tank House Theatre. The run sold-out with excellent audience and critical response.

On June 22, 2019, two performances of The Cave were livestreamed to theatres and living rooms from Coast to Coast to Coast in Canada and around the World, reaching communities as close as Toronto and as far as Asan-si, South Korea. Our desire to reach cities and small communities outside of Toronto helped define the spirit of our show.


“We’re hearing a lot about the coming climate change apocalypse these days. The worry, of course, is inaction and folks repeating the same concerns over and over to the point that others stop paying attention.

Maybe it’s time to listen to the animals. A garter snake with 77 babies has something to say. So does a workaholic beaver, a surfeit of skunks in a funk, a dog who calls out humans for overconsumption and the oldest creature of them all: a grandmother spider who sings in Cree. All of these creatures and more are hanging out in a super-moody makeshift nightclub in the Distillery District, singing gorgeous songs written by John Millard with lyrics by Cree playwright/national treasure Tomson Highway.”
-Karen Fricker, The Toronto Star ( 3.5 / 4 Stars )

“Ushered in from the holding bar area the audience enters the cave, a dark, almost womb-like space. There’s a lot to love about The Cave… The experience is worth it for the singing and aesthetic alone.”
-Irana Lucas, Mooney on Theatre


“I saw the show tonight and it truly should be seen by as many people as possible (and maybe by a few other creatures, too)!”
-Celia Harte

“Completely wonderful and cathartic!”
-Anonymous Patron

“A Canadian gem!”
-Ross Rennie


Music by John Millard
Lyrics by Tomson Highway
Book by Martha Ross
Directed by Adam Paolozza
Music Directed by Gregory Oh
Costume Design by Allie Marshall
Lighting Design by Andre du Toit
Set Design by Trevor Schwellnus
Sound Design by Chris Ross-Ewart
Produced by Victor Pokinko
Stage Management by Tamara Protic


Neema Bickersteth (Performer)
Andrea Koziol (Performer)
Derek Kwan (Performer)
Alex Samaras (Performer)
John Millard (Composer / MC / Banjo)
Rob Clutton (Bass)
Germaine Liu (Percussion)
Karen Ng (Reeds)
Gregory Oh (Keys)
Matti Pulkki (Accordion)


Luminato International Arts Festival, Toronto Canada, June 2020

The Raven Transforming Festival, Vancouver Canada, October 2020


The Cave Collective was the proud recipient of a Canada Council New Chapters Grant with additional support from Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, The Metcalfe Foundation, Luminato Festival, Soulpepper Theatre.

The Cave is currently available for bookings from June 2020 onward.


Victor Pokinko  
Cave Collective Producer

+001 416 433 6719


Tomson Highway is a celebrated Indigenous playwright, novelist, lyricist, essayist, pianist, and has established an influential national and international reputation. His plays The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, are produced worldwide.

John Millard is an accomplished and internationally renowned composer who has a distinctively playful and theatrical sound. He is active in the music/theatre scene in Toronto and across Canada and has composed for numerous award-winning theatre productions.

Martha Ross, after graduating from Ecole Jacques Lecoq, co-founded the Toronto-based theatre company, Theatre Columbus. Their distinctive theatre style, which was physical, funny, serious, imaginative, at times anarchic, and always true to the human story, quickly earned Ms Ross and her company a national reputation.

Gregory Oh is a pianist, music director and artistic programmer who always tries to lean towards the progressive and experimental. His exploits have taken him from techno mecca Berghain in Berlin to the Wordless Music Series at the Lincoln Centre in New York to the Beijing Modern Music Festival. Highlights of the coming season include a tour to Rwanda and Scotland with Century Song (Volcano Theatre), and a series of performances in the Shanghai New Music Festival.

Adam Paolozza is an award-winning performer, director, writer, arts educator and producer. As Artistic Director of Bad New Days he continues to explore his vision of a contemporary poetic theatre of gesture. He is a dedicated teacher leading workshops in performance and creation all over the world. Adam trained at École Jacques Lecoq in Paris.

Victor Pokinko is a Dora Award-winning producer, actor, and theatre-creator based in Toronto. As a producer, Victor is committed to carving out space for new, imaginative, interdisciplinary art. As an Artistic Producer of Bad Hats Theatre and Creative Producer of Bad New Days, he is dedicated to the development of original work, championing the collective voices of artists to let them influence and shape the creative process.