A Canadian Heritage Minute comes to life on-stage, in The Arts Club’s Beneath Springhill: The Maurice Ruddick Story. Playing until August 29th, Beau Dixon’s musical drama tells the story of Maurice Ruddick, a survivor of the 1958 Springhill, NS Mining Disaster.
Known as The Singing Miner, Ruddick was one of the six ‘miracle miners’ who survived for 9 days, trapped 4km underground in the deepest coal mine in the world, after a collapse which killed 75 other miners. Filmed for a 1993 Heritage Minute, Ruddick’s story
Beau Dixon’s compelling one-person show features Jerimiah Sparks, as Maurice Ruddick, telling and singing the story of his life up to and through the mining disaster. As he tells the story, Sparks also gives voice to the other characters in his life; his wife, children, co-workers and CBC Radio New reporter. Maurice tells us his history and how he came to be a third-generation African-Canadian Nova Scotia miner, married to wife Norma with 12 children, and the importance of music to his life. Then the action and drama moves underground as a ‘bump’ – the buckling of the mine’s walls – causes the shaft to collapse trapping Maurice and his crew. True to life, Maurice keeps spirits up with song as the miners contend with the heat, bad air, lack of food and water. The familiar CBC breaking news theme focuses the audience on what’s happening above ground as families and the world waits the outcome.
Jeremiah Sparks is engaging as he draws the audience in with recollections, and his rich voice, coached by local soul singer Dawn Pemberton, swings effortlessly from lullaby to doo-wop. In no way is it comparable to what the real-life miners went through, but watching the play at the peak of a heatwave, in a dimly lit (but cooler-than-outside) theatre while wearing masks, echoed the feeling from the stage as the miners endured the close quarters, heat, and darkness. At just 75 minutes, Sparks performance along with Ted Robert’s set and Jeff Harrison’s low lighting make the show feel very intimate and personal; like a neighbour recounting a personal story over the fence. With the Covid-19 restrictions limiting the attendance to 50% capacity at Granville Island stage, the smaller audience also lends itself to the intimate one-person storytelling.
Watch Beneath Springhill: The Maurice Ruddick Story, to learn this piece of Canadian history for yourself, until August 29th at The Arts Club Granville Island Stage. Tickets are on sale now, with capacity limited to 50%, and masks are recommended in the theatre