While Covid-19 has closed venues, theatre practitioners continue to impress admirers with their efforts online and, increasingly, with audio plays. I have to confess I find podcasts and the like hard work: it’s too easy to be distracted while trying to listen and wonder how sound effects are achieved. But Seeds is an intriguing true story – scientists in 1940s Russia struggling with the world’s first seed bank. And offered in bite-size chunks over six weeks, even a short attention span like mine should cope.
The first episode raises plenty of questions. A newly awakened patient, escaping from hospital during a fire, is dramatic enough. Only knowing “ten minutes of my history for certain” means we learn (and ‘see’) everything fresh just like the intriguing injured character. How did she get to hospital? Is she allowed to leave? If the descriptive detail is occasionally laboured, the delivery from Nina Sosanya is expert.
As for those sound effects and score, both by Jon Ouin, it’s interesting to hear them mirror the patient’s increasing awareness. Ouin complements the action wonderfully. Nicholas Pitt confidently directs Nick Walker’s text. The latter has plenty of experience on radio and creates a vivid mental picture, while developing plot, in a thorough fashion that increases in tension and mystery. Walker makes sure we want to know what happens next…
Future episodes will develop the story of our patient and the work of Nikolai Vavilov, a plant geneticist who came to a sorry end. The project had environmental concerns that make it startling relevant, even beyond an original intention of preventing famine. The “mission” has the backdrop of Soviet politics and World War II to add extra drama and will star Katy Stephens, Jordon Kemp, Kirsty Rider and Graeme Rose.