Seeds is a documentary play that explores the four-year legal battle between Monsanto and Percy Schmeiser, a Saskatchewan farmer who the corporation took to court after a crop from their patented seed was found on his land. The play questions notions of the rights of corporations to patent a living thing, and the public’s acceptance of GMO foods as safe.
It’s a piece of verbatim theatre by Montreal writer Annabel Soutar that is compiled from court transcripts, news articles, and interviews. The playwright also writes herself into the action, as a well-meaning truth-seeker whose business, she says, like the farmer, even like Monsanto, is life.
Soutar poses the question many times: Who owns life? In exploring the answer, the play picks up some interesting threads about the complexity of patenting a seed – is it the gene sequence that is patented, or the technology which allowed the modification, or the plant that is yielded from the seed? And should any of this be patented when life is inexorably linked?
It’s rich material that doesn’t lend itself naturally to the stage, but director Chris Abraham manages to offer an impressive production with some impeccable performances, dynamic design, and swift pacing that disguises the show’s lengthy runtime. The beloved Eric Peterson, perhaps most famously of Corner Gas, plays the farmer Percy Schmeiser with a no-nonsense earnestness that is captivating and believable. The supporting cast members are all stellar as they navigate a slew of real-life characters.
The Schmeiser vs Monsanto case is just one story in a hugely complicated one, and Seeds feels like an important and useful part of the conversation.
Written by Annabel Soutar
Directed by Chris Abraham
Presented by Neptune Theatre
Porte Parole Productions
1593 Argyle Street
September 12 to October 1