Everything you thought you knew about the Monstanto Canada Inc. vs. Schmeiser case will be challenged by Porte Parole’s Seeds at Theatre Junction Grand.
If you assumed Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser was an innocent victim of a bully corporation that sells Roundup-resistent canola seeds to farmers you will find yourself doubting at least part of his story. If you assumed Monsanto was rightfully protecting its patent against a farmer who used the seeds without paying the licensing fee you will question the validity of the "evidence" it collected and the testimony — or lack of testimony — from the experts.
Ultimately the story presents a compelling debate on what is a more pressing concern: has Canada allowed the use of genetically modified crops without adequate testing to determine their safety and to assess the long-term implications? In that case regardless of your position on GMOs the answer comes across loud and clear.
Annabel Soutar’s docudrama is comprised of her interviews with Schmeiser Monsanto’s Tracy Jordan farmers scientists and others involved in the case as well as court transcripts. She uses the text from those interviews and transcripts verbatim comparing people’s words to "fingerprints."
The resulting dialogue moves quickly from one perspective to another leaving the audience to examine all sides and assume the role of judge along with Soutar who narrates the investigative process she went through in the search for answers. One interview leads to another and another and another.
Seeds does not feel long despite its two-hour-plus run time moving at a fast but not hurried pace and making good use of video set and props to propel the story — it comes across as more of a live documentary film than a play as Soutar’s "documentary theatre" label would suggest.
However it would not hurt the story to eliminate the audience interviews right at the start in which actors asked a few people to share their views on questions related to life and nature. The discussions were interesting but not enlightening or necessary and did not warrant the time spent. Thankfully once the action moved to the stage there was no further audience participation.
Canadian icon Eric Peterson is the undisputed star on the stage as the flawed "hero" Schmeiser but the rest of the cast more than hold their own playing multiple characters in what is an excellent performance from all involved.
Seeds runs until Saturday January 18 at Theatre Junction Grand .