Bristol Theatre Reviews

Review – Seeds of Memories at the Alma Tavern Theatre

A stage washed in natural hues, earthy tones and green leaves brings this show right into the heart of nature. Wooden crates, ropes snaking along the ground, an old coat draped over a rack. This is grandad’s garden. It’s comforting and familiar – much like this show.

Seeds of Memories is about grief and bereavement but in a warm and reassuring way. It explores the inevitability of aging and death and how family copes in the aftermath.

The gentle piece feels like you have stepped into the pages of a much loved children’s picture story book, one from your own childhood. It’s a world much like those created by writers and illustrators Shirley Hughes, Janet and Allan Ahlberg and Judith Kerr.

Writer and director Patrick Withey’s beautiful writing carries an authentic voice throughout. Through the eyes of a child growing into a young person we meet Grandad, entirely conjured up through descriptive monologue and occasional puppetry.

As adults, we know Grandad is elderly, has slowed down and the inevitable is coming. Grandad knows it too. He’s being followed by a single magpie – the magpie rhyme being a continuing theme of joy and grief.

When the end comes, there’s no mawkishness. It’s quiet and comes in that unexpected phone call. The shrill ring of bad news.

Intertwined throughout is nature, the earth, the smell of compost and tomato plant leaves. Grandad is always in his garden, with gardening and the natural world the metaphor for human life and death. It’s where life springs from and returns back to dust, repeating the cycle through time.

Through one of Grandad’s stories, we are introduced to the omnipresent Nature, played with balletic grace by Lisha Allen.

Puppetry tells the mythical story of a young boy encountering Nature one night. A young boy who feels connected to the earth and meets Nature. Except Nature turns out to be real, revealing themselves to the grandson during his grief.

Oliver J Edwards gives a wonderful performance as A, the grandson. Much of the show rests on his performance of monologues and ability to convince the audience that he is a young child growing into a young man. His performance was highly impressive, one of the best I’ve seen in a serious fringe theatre role.

Lesley Hayes is in support playing both Mum and Nan, managing to capture everyone’s 80 year old Grandma in facial expressions alone.

Often, fringe theatre tends to be more creative to mitigate smaller budgets. The puppetry, lighting and miniature sets were exactly this. The addition of fairly lights and a small light up moon looked staggeringly beautiful in the small Alma venue. It added to the magical themes within the piece and as the backdrop to the puppetry storytelling was inspired.

Seeds of Memories is a show that punches well above its weight. It’s one of those fringe theatre gems that’s perfectly crafted to create a wonderful piece of theatre.

It’s suitable for ages around six years upwards . Whilst it is about impending death and the aftermath, it is not distressing or upsetting. It’s an accessible way to approach the subject with younger children as well as being a comforting piece of theatre for adults.

Seeds of Memories is at the Alma Tavern until Saturday 29 April and includes a Relaxed Performance in the afternoon

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