Steel and Coal: Work and Protest is a collection of stories and songs of Industrial Cape Breton. The first production by the Big Fiddle Players features some of the island’s local talent, both up and comers and veterans of the dramatic arts. Work and Protest’s stellar cast includes George MacKenzie, Ken Chisholm, Ron Newcombe, Jana Gillis, and Megan MacDonald, with writing by Chris Corbett, Walter Carey, Paul MacDougall, Jana Gillis, Ken Chisholm, and Megan MacDonald. The show runs until Monday, September 2 at Saint Patrick’s Museum on the Esplanade in Sydney.
With St. Pat’s setting a quiet and solemn mood, guests to the show are soon uplifted by songs and monologues from our past. From cheerful and nostalgic songs about the beauty of the place we are so lucky to call home, to protest songs and calls to action for workers, Work and Protest is a show that has succeeded in bringing our shared history to life and giving the stage to a wide range of characters.
The show features a number of persons both fictional and fictionalized. From notable names in our history like J.B. McLachlan–a Scottish immigrant who came to the island with his family in 1902 and was labelled a red agitator while he championed the working classes and the idea of social justice after being black-listed from the mines after strikes–to characters left nameless but whose story we all know, like the mother sending her young son into the mine before the sun rises, torn between her concern for her young son and where their next meal will come from if he doesn’t go below, Steel and Coal: Work and Protest tells a variety of stories.
The show’s greatest success is that it is not static. It is not a cold and detached history lesson but instead history becomes fluid. Travelling from the turn of the century to Black Friday and the March of Concern in the 1960’s to today, Work and Protest is touching, timeless, and flawlessly put together with each story, song, and monologue bleeding seamlessly into the next, and weaving a wondrous portrait of our region.
You leave Saint Patrick’s invigorated, as if you’d been there in 1967, marching up Prince Street, as the sky parted and the sun shone down on over 20,000 Cape Bretoners standing together to demand fairness, equality, and dignity for themselves, their children, and they community.
Hopefully Work and Protest will have the same unifying effect, bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate our past and march shoulder to shoulder into a future where someone is always looking out for you, like you would for them, when we truly are a family and everything is alright.
Steel and Coal: Work and Protest runs until September 2nd at Saint Patrick’s Museum in Sydney. Showtime is 8pm. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door or in advance at the Cape Breton Centre for Heritage and Science.