The play begins with an explosion and a cave in down a mine shaft. Three miners are trapped there; Cass, the local golden boy, sometime star football player and medical student, now an ordinary worker in the mine, drug dependent and complete cynic; Butcher, the average product of a small mining town, inarticulate, unimaginative, who thinks that the best life can offer is a new motor car; and Bunting, an old-time miner with the typical miners’ ‘hump’, lonely and taciturn with an obsession about the welfare of cats. The play explores the reactions of these three men to the disaster that has befallen them and the fate which awaits them.
Both Bunting and Cass have been injured by the explosion while Butcher suffers nothing more serious than shock. Cass’s pain does not seem to result from the effects of the cave-in as much as from the apparent loss of his drugs for which he searches between severe bouts of withdrawal symptoms that become more painful as the play proceeds. Bunting’s injuries are critical and he dies during the course of the play. He never regains full consciousness but moves intermittently between a near-catatonic state of total incomprehension and delirium, during which he shouts barely decipherable ravings about cats being mutilated or destroyed in a variety of extremely sadistic ways. Bunting’s words bear no relationship to the continuing dialogue between Cass and Butcher; they function as disturbing, almost surrealistic interjections as a metaphor for the happenstance violence-in-disaster visited up the three men and, of course, upon their lost miner mates. However, there is nothing metaphorical about how Cass and Butcher face what is to come... it is naked defiance.
- 110 minutes
- 3 male
- Australian Script Centre