Riddled with broken glass, used condoms and just about any other paraphernalia you can imagine, Concord Floral is not just any abandoned greenhouse. It’s a place the neighbourhood teens can slink away to in the middle of the night – a place their parents don’t know about (or at least pretend not to know about).
And all is blissfully well, until one night, Nearly Wild (Jovana Miladinovic) and Rosa Mundi (Ofa Gasesepe) ditch their friends to go to Concord Floral to “smoke a J,” and Rosa’s cell phone falls into a well inside the greenhouse. Desperate to get the phone back because “it’s like a $600 iPhone” the girls notice it hasn’t only fallen into a dark hole, but into the body of a dead girl who lies within it. As they and their peers become plagued with this knowledge, everything begins to fall apart around them.
Dora Award-winning Concord Floral is a reimagining of Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, blended with an otherworldly, sci-fi version of the Concord Floral that playwright Jordan Tannahill experienced for himself (yes, it is a real greenhouse in Vaughan).
At its core, it’s a show about transformation, discovery, owning your mistakes and learning what it right.
The beauty about this teen thriller is that it’s an interdisciplinary mix of so many elements, yet nothing feels out of place. The audience is presented with a simple set design but an intricate world of myth, storytelling, movement and fantasy, dressed with unsettling lighting and soundscapes.
The play is structured like the mind of the teenager. It’s innovative. It makes all of the elements work together because it’s a show that refuses to take no for an answer.
In its new setting at Canadian Stage’s Bluma Appel Theatre, we don’t sit in the comfortable theatre chairs we are so accustomed to. Instead, we are ushered onto the stage to sit close to the actors on temporary auditorium seating.
Metaphorically, this is a brilliant idea. This rebel-of-a-play is going against the limitations of the theatre, and what better way to do so than to bring the audience to the one place they are not allowed to be?
However, this didn’t feel quite as intimate as it should have. The seating is still far removed from the action of the play and has the ability to be distracting at times (it makes excessive noise when people move around).
This is a secret world, after all – let us get even closer.
I want to say Concord Floral will send chills down your spine, but for me, that simply did not occur. Instead, when I look at these characters, I see the teenager I once was: intrepid, insatiable and all-too-eager to be accepted. There is something eerily familiar about it all – so familiar, that it put me at ease.
The cast is comprised of actual teenagers and young adults – some from the original production in 2014, and some who are new ensemble members.
And while it may not be the grand acting that you’re used to, it’s not your Mickey Mouse Clubhouse kind of show either.
The goal here, which is executed successfully, is to provide the most natural account of these teenagers’ lives, and it definitely feels that way. It feels less like you are watching actors and more like you walked to the high school in your neighbourhood and sat in the cafeteria. They don’t try to be compelling; they just are.
Directed by Erin Brubacher and Cara Spooner, Concord Floral runs at the Bluma Appel Theatre until Oct. 16. For more information, visit https://www.canadianstage.com/Online/.