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The Breathing Hole

The Breathing Hole

By Colleen Murphy
With Siobhan Arnatsiaq-Murphy
Translated by Janet Tamalik McGrath
Introduction by Kenn Harper
Subjects: Ontario Playwrights, History, Women Writers, Environmental Issues, Translations
Duration: 160 hours
Imprint: Playwrights Canada Press
Paperback : 9780369101105, 336 pages, November 2020
Ebook (PDF) : 9780369101112, November 2020
Ebook (EPUB) : 9780369101129, November 2020


  • Nominated, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2018
  • Nominated, Carol Bolt Award 2018


Stories of the Canadian Arctic intersect in this epic five-hundred-year journey led by a one-eared polar bear.

In 1535, Hummiktuq, an Inuk widow, has a strange dream about the future. The next day, she discovers a bear cub floating on ice near a breathing hole. Despite the concerns of her community, she adopts him and names him Angu’řuaq. In 1845, Angu’řuaq and his mate Ukuannuaq wander into a chance meeting between explorers from the Franklin Expedition and Inuit hunters. Later, when the explorers are starving, the bears meet them again. By 2035, entrepreneurs are assessing degrees of melting ice for future opportunities. Angu’řuaq encounters the passengers and crew of a luxury cruise ship as it slinks through the oily waters of the Northwest Passage.

Humorous and dramatic, The Breathing Hole is a profound saga that traces the paths of colonialism and climate change to a deeply moving conclusion.


“What War Horse did for horses, this does for bears… The bear is, in all his charm and majesty and significance, a triumph for the author's ambition and imagination.”

- Robert Cushman, National Post

“The play and production gently invite audiences to consider relations between native people, settlers and the natural world through perspectives that are novel—perhaps even a little revolutionary...”

- Karen Fricker, Toronto Star

“We’re conscious that we are witnessing a work of epic proportions.”

- Jamie Portman, Capital Critics Circle

The Breathing Hole is an incredible piece of theatre that is both ground-breaking and deeply moving.”

- Lauren Gienow, Broadway World