Synopsis (with spoilers!)
Maurice Ruddick is praying in song, singing in the dark. He is one of 174 miners trapped in the Cumberland No. 2 mine on October 23rd, 1958, deep beneath Springhill, Nova Scotia.
Maurice wanted to be a musician, but followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather into a mining job. On the day of the accident, Doug, a coworker, recalls how the No 2. is an old mine and that its supporting pillars are poorly built.
Miners there shovel sixteen tons of coal, eight hours a day for eleven dollars each, amid the heat and dangers of toxic gases. Maurice talks to Percy, an old-timer, when they hear a "bump," a tremor. A louder tremor follows, burying the men.
A CBC reporter describes a shifting of the rock floor which caused the bump, forcing it to push upwards violently. Norma, Maurice's wife, and their twelve children prepare to go to the mine to wait for his rescue.
The men are buried to their waists in rock and coal; Maurice takes a head count and discovers Percy's arm trapped in a wall of coal. Above ground, rescue workers from surrounding areas arrive to help. It's been three days since the collapse, and the situation is getting worse.
There are seven men alive. Garnet, a young miner, turns 29. They pretend to have a party, splitting a sandwich and caps of water. Currie finds a chocolate bar; Frank lost his hearing; Percy dies.
Now seven days in, Valerie sings a song of hope for her father's return. The men grow weak from a lack of food. Norma is interviewed on TV, and despite discouraging news, she has faith in her husband's survival.
Maurice sings in prayer for his rescue, and the miners take turns tapping SOS on an air pipe. Suddenly, they hear the sounds of rescuers: they have been found. Dug out after nine days, the miners become a media sensation, despite some inequality due to Maurice's treatment as a black person. The play ends on his recollection of the miners' lives following the accident.