You have to admire a creative response to this Coronavirus bullsh*t. No Stone Theatre were in the R&D stage of their stage show Seeds of Hope but with Covid putting those plans awry, they have reconfigured it into an audio drama called Seeds and writer Nick Walker has reconstructed its narrative to create a podcast series, the first episode of which is now available.
Seeds is based on the true story of Nikolai Vavilov, a plant geneticist who founded the world’s first seed bank in Leningrad but soon found himself on the wrong side of Stalin’s favour. Walker uses the story of an amnesiac patient waking up in modern-day St Petersburg, played by the marvellous Nina Sosanya, to explore not only the tragedy of the past but the prescience of Vavilov’s work around food security and biodiversity.
Sosanya is a fantastic voice actor and she expertly guides us through the strange terrain of the first episode as the patient tries to work out how they ended up in a hospital. Nicholas Pitt’s direction makes great use of Jon Ouin’s creepingly ominous music and sound design and I am officially hooked. And since Hallowe’en is fast approaching, I also took the time to listen to a few episodes of At Your Peril, a horror anthology created by Arthur McBain and Owen Jenkins.
Horror isn’t a genre which theatre does particularly well (I’m only haunted by The Exorcist in the wrong way) but audio drama is a perfect home for it, drawing on the long tradition of telling spooky stories. And the anthology format works particularly well here as McBain and Jenkins are able to play with form, taking us from genuinely creepy tales around the campfire to immersive radio chat shows. I highly recommend their 10th episode, called The Tenth Episode, which is extraordinarily spine-tingling as it further toys with notions of storytelling. Just don’t go upstairs on your own…