Oddly enough the thought of "documentary theatre" never entered my mind. But once it had, and once I was ten minutes into Crow's Theatre's production of SEEDS, I was flabbergasted that no one had done it before. If they had, I sure hadn't heard of it.
Currently on stage at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts is SEEDS, a documentary theatre piece about the historial battle between the agricultural corporate giant Monsanto, creator of many genetically modified crops (in this case Canola), and Saskatchewan Canola farmer Percy Schmeiser. The legal battle commenced when Monsanto sued Schmeiser for using their genetically modified canola seeds without paying the royalties for it ($15/acre). Schmeiser fought back maintaining he didn't steal the GMO seeds, but that they were blown onto his land from neighbouring farms because of weather and other means beyond his control.
The story unfolds with the character of the playwright (the ever amazing Lisa Repo-Martell) as the central narrator. We watch as she goes about her research for writing the play, interviewing Monsanto employees, scientists, farmers, Schmeiser, etc. (what the playwright Annabel Soutar actually did), and as she finds out information and puts the story together, the audience is simultaneously let into the loop along with her.
Clearly Monsanto, the sleazy, bottom-line, corporate giant, is hiding something. Clearly, they're trying to make an example of Schmeiser and let the rest of the farmers know, if there was any doubt, who's boss. Or are they? All of the above may be true, but just how innocent is Schmeiser? What does he get out of this fight?
My emotions were played like a fiddle and I loved it. I love a show that has me hating the enemy one minute, but empathizing with them the next; I'm reminded of the varying sides to every story, I feel like I'm getting a well-rounded explanation of events, and that my resulting opinion is based on a story told as objectively as possible. It's so satisfying.
SEEDS is educational (Canadian history AND science, together!), well executed, outrageously well acted (how many different physicalities can Alex Ivanovici do? Eric Peterson is also at his finest.) and the set is beyond cool. When entering the theatre, you're greeted by the actors, in costume, milling about a set that's a cross between a modern university lecture hall, a science lab and a living room. It looks rad and the multi-dimensional uses of it, are even radder.
Now that I've experienced it, I am convinced that documentary theatre is something that has been absent from my life for far too long, and if SEEDS is any indication of what documentary theatre is all about, I am thrilled about the prospects of its future in my life.
Don't let the confusing poster design scare you off; you should see this innovative show.
SEEDS is currently on at the Yonge Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill St., Building 49). unti March 10. For tickets, click here or call: 416-866-8666.