Arts

Photo: Courtesy of NAC New Media.

U of O students star in production of Concord Floral

If you thought your high school experience was a nightmare, this play might put things in perspective for you—Concord Floral is no High School Musical.

Originally created by Jordan Tannahill, Erin Brubacher, and Cara Spooner, and written for a Toronto setting, the play was adapted for Ottawa with a new local cast featuring two University of Ottawa students, and opened at the National Arts Centre (NAC) on March 31 to a full house.

The play is a psychological thriller, bordering on supernatural realism, revolving around the lives of ten teenagers who make all the wrong choices. Partly inspired by and often referencing The Decameron, a 14th century collection of novellas about ten people hiding from the plague, the play is broken into ten parts.

Concord Floral is a modern take on the historical piece, centering around the theme of guilt, maintaining the use of technology, slang, and sarcasm characteristically attributed to a younger audience. The story follows the teens and their various experiences an abandoned warehouse called Concord Floral.

The first part of the play introduces the characters and setting, and follows two girls in their quest for a joint to smoke in the greenhouse. The plot thickens when they instead find a dead body, making way for suspense, drama, and an exhilarating sound and lighting experience. Unlike most productions that feature teenage characters, Concord Floral‘s cast is made up entirely of actual teenagers, giving a more authentic feeling to the production.

Franco Pang, a second-year psychology and theatre student at the U of O plays the character of John Cabot in the play. Pang says his character is written authentically, along with the other characters, helping the actors lend themselves to the roles.

“We were encouraged to put part of ourselves in our characters and I actually enjoy the character of John Cabot the most,” Pang says. “John Cabot is a very smart sort of individual and he’s not really tied down by the cliques of the cast… He’s not afraid to say what he wants, (and) he has a passion and he’s not afraid to show it, which I think is really good.”

Not only were the teens given a voice, but the greenhouse, played by Stefanie Velichkin, a second-year theatre student at the U of O, was a character in itself. Velichkin says that she enjoys working with a teenage cast and hopes that audience members take away more than just the fictional message of the play.

“The greenhouse has a couple of lines about how parents talk about kids and look down on them, and I want the opposite to happen when people watch this play,” she says. “I want people to look up to us, to be proud of us and to know that we can do stuff (of this caliber).”

The ensemble piece did a great job dealing with problems like substance abuse, sexuality, bullying, friendship, and remorse in a mature and respectful manner, as dark themes were punctuated with sporadic comic relief. The impressive performance on opening night deserved its standing ovation, and the talented cast and expert direction made the play a delight to watch despite its darker themes.

Concord Floral is currently running until April 9 at the NAC. For more information please visit their website.