Ships Company captures the spirit of the Bump

Rose Willigar
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PARRSBORO: The word bump, to many in Springhill, takes us to a time of hope and despair when in 1958 the town shook from the depths of more than 1,300 feet as the world famous disaster of the same name unfolded before them.
Ship's Company Theatre brought to the stage with dignity and style the story of the Springhill Bump on October 23,1958 when the famous coal mine disaster claimed the lives of 74 miners and 19 miners miraculously rising from depths of more than 1,300 feet of the shattered mines to safety, some after nine days of entrapment.
From the perspective of three trapped miners Percy Rector (Lee J. Campbell), Frank Hunter (Matthew Walker), Maurice Ruddick (Bruce Tubbe) and Maurice's wife Norma Ruddick (Julia Williams), Richard Merrill's play "Bump" dramatically retells the story of this unimaginable disaster.
Michael Chaisson directs this heart-wrenching story of the lives lost and the miraculous recovery of nineteen surviving miners along with the tribulation of those trapped and the families of miners lost and rescued.
The entire cast and crew of this production certainly deserve the standing ovations received for the magnificent on stage and off-stage performances from top-notch sound, set and lighting designed which certainly showed the talents of Michael Doherty, Katherine Jenkins and Bruce MacLennan. As Norma listens to the Pennsylvania mine rescue of 2002 it takes her back to the horrific day in 1958 when the ground shook as far as 15 miles away.
"Maurice," she whispers thinking of her husband who worked below the 1,300 foot level.
The background of the set is a wall of the underground with a "hole in the ground" where we watch the trapped miners deal with their situation as Frank, an older teen not quite of age, struggles with fear and panic that pushes him to silence, while the two veteran miners Percy, whose arm is trapped by the fallen framework of the mine leaving him incapacitated and Maurice who has survived previous bumps quickly springs into action taking control of the situation.
This is a play that will touch your heart having you reaching for a tissue to dry your eyes one moment to chuckling at the unexpected humour of the trapped miners the next.
"I suppose you're a church goer too," Percy asks Frank in reference to Maurice being a religious man, to which Frank gives a nod.
"Great, just my luck to be trapped down here with two church goers," Percy groans.
With the unbearable waves of pain from his pinned arm Percy begs, "cut it off, cut it off, I'd do it for you!" Maurice and Frank struggle to calm Percy. Hopeful one moment to doubts of survival the next the miners struggle, reminding themselves of the code - no one gets left below. The three miners know there's only two ways to come out of this disaster. At one point deciding to leave a will the three begin to carve their wills into boards.
"Thanks for coming, sorry we missed you," was one of Percy's suggestions as a message for the rescuers.
As the miners struggle to remain hopeful Norma is sitting at home struggling for the same. At one point refusing to watch television as reporters broadcast live as bodies and survivors are recovered and refusing to go to funerals of other miners while waiting for word of her beloved husband.
"When you only have one black dress, you don't wear it to 13 funerals," Norma says as one day when there was as many as 13 funerals.
"I'm saving mine for you Maurice," Norma says as she sets her lone black dress on a trunk in the living room.
Switching between young Norma in 1958 who sits home with their 12 children desperately waiting for word on her trapped husband to modern-day Norma in 2002 who is listening to the Pennsylvania mine rescue Williams gives a strong performance.
Bump is certainly a play well worth seeing with strong performances from all four actors.
Bump runs at Ship's Company Theatre from July 2 to July 27. You don't want to miss this eloquently constructed script that retells the story of survival in the small coalmining town of Springhill.

Geographic location: Springhill, PARRSBORO, Pennsylvania

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