Theatre Department presents ‘Concord Floral’
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
The Theatre Department’s upcoming show Concord Floral promises to be relatable for just about everyone, even if most of us have never stumbled across a dead body in a greenhouse.
Concord Floral, written by Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill and directed by Kathleen Duborg, is about a group of 10 teenagers hanging out in an abandoned warehouse for suburban fun, until two of them discover a body. Based on the medieval novel The Decameron, the play follows the teenagers as they sift through their stories to untangle the mystery. The Other Press spoke with some of the cast last week about the production.
Etella Keenan, who plays a character named Forever Irene, summed up the story enigmatically: “It’s a murder mystery with a twist.” Assistant stage manager Katelyn Cyr said the story and its small-town teenage vibe reminded her of Pretty Little Liars when she first read the script.
All of the 10 characters are connected to another in some way, although they aren’t exactly a single clique of friends. Some of the characters are related by blood, while others are linked through friendships, shared interests, and other, subtler bonds. However, according to the cast and crew, the interpersonal dynamics shouldn’t be too hard for an audience to follow because they come together in such a natural and relatable way.
“This show feels like the characters are real people, because real people don’t stick with the same five friends all the time,” said Kel Freeman, the show’s stage manager.
Christian van Geyn, who plays John Cabot, said he expects audiences will find a lot of parallels to their own relationships. “On top of people probably being able to relate to one or more of the characters, when they see the whole ensemble working, I feel like there are times when you can relate to connections between characters too. You go, ‘Oh, that’s how I used to talk with my friend,’ or ‘I knew this kind of person in this school.’”
The characters aren’t all just teenagers, either. Six of the characters are named after species of roses—harkening back to the floral theme of the show. The other four are named after, and also play, non-human animals and objects.
There’s Fox, for example, played by Maddie Severyn: In some scenes she’s the human, and in others she’s the fox, with traits of the latter influencing the former. Severyn said it’s been a little tricky dividing the two roles, adapting her movement to each while also allowing the slyness of the fox to seep into the human character. Kayla Krishna, playing Greenhouse, also said it was at first a bit of a challenge to figure out how literally to act as an object, but the play is very well written and works it in smoothly.
Eclectic as this assemblage of characters is, it also gives each of the actors an equal chance to shine. Everyone in Concord Floral has a story to tell, and everyone has at least one monologue over the course of the play.
“When you look at them all standing there at the beginning they’re all clearly teenagers. They’re all clearly an ensemble. But then there are the segments of magical realism where they step out and tell individual stories in their metaphorical character,” said van Geyn.
Severyn said this ensemble cast has been one of her favourite parts of working on the show.
“No one has a greater part than anyone else, so we each got to explore who we were and how everyone was equal,” she said.
This sharing of the spotlight is also unique in Concord Floral because, unlike most plays, every actor is on the stage in every scene. There’s no backstage and no curtains; the actors sit in chairs on the side when they’re not directly part of the action, but they’re still visible and in character for the entire 80-minute show.
Although Tannahill’s script is originally set in Ontario, the Douglas Theatre Department has adapted it, with permission from the playwright, to Langley, BC. As Keenan explained, the cast did a lot of research into different regions of Metro Vancouver before deciding on Port Kells as an area with all the right elements of suburbia—highways, farmland, development, and plenty of greenhouses.
The show even contains references to SkyTrain stations, driving home the relatability of the setting and the story to audiences. This familiarity is further reinforced by the characters’ clothing, carefully chosen to reflect modern local fashion, said Freeman.
“The costumes shouldn’t look like costumes. It should look like all of our characters walked right off the street and came in to do the show.”
Concord Floral runs from November 3 to 10 in the Douglas College Studio Theatre, on the fourth floor of the New Westminster campus. Tickets are available at concordfloral.bpt.me.