“She’s an intelligent woman, a strong woman, independent,” Edmond says of Elaine’s voice in the play. “A single mom with three young kids and she was very, very, very close with her brother. They had an exceptionally close sibling relationship and were best friends. And she got him the job. She literally got him the job, so that guilt aspect is there. I think by the time she tells that story, she says, ‘I carried that guilt for a long time,’ so she has gotten through it somehow.”
Edmonds acknowledged there’s a line to walk when it comes to presenting the tragic tale in the voices of those who lived through it as theatre, and puts the power of the play down to the interviewees’ own words.
“You can’t be the person. The best you can do is tell their story,” she says. “Even now, my third time doing it, I’m still going back and trying to look at the lines fresh again. The word choices tell you a lot. The things that they chose to say and the way they chose to say them are important.”
Sullivan points out the show isn’t meant to be raw and emotional, though there are certainly elements of that. It’s a story, she says, of an event that has shaped people’s lives through their own words, decades later. She has chosen to include the aftermath of the disaster, saying man of the details shocked her: a child, for instance, learned his father had perished from the TV news.
Some of the people portrayed in the play have come to see it; others haven’t and perhaps won’t. Feedback from them has been good, Sullivan says, adding her main goal is to make them feel respected and heard.
Heffernan is pleased with Sullivan’s stage treatment of his book, saying he’s happy it’s keeping the story alive. The details of the tragedy are still relevant, he says.
“At the time that I did this, oil was well over $100 a barrel and now its bottomed out. There is no idea by industry experts when it’s going to rebound,” he says. “The petroleum industry and industry in general are very reactive to safety, not proactive. Whether it’s an oil rig or a hydroelectric dam or a pipeline or whatever, stories like this are universal.”
“(The oil industry is) an uncaring industry, using people as much as it can to make as much money as it can, and that’s not going to stop,” Sullivan adds. “Those hard-fought union rules, environmental regulations, safety protocols — people died for all of that. So yes, very relevant and a lesson hard learned. Very hard learned.”
“Rig — Voices from the Ocean Ranger Disaster” will run at The Rooms at 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday. Tickets are $30 (with a 10 per cent discount for Rooms members). For more information, visit www.therooms.ca.