Concord Floral tackles bullying

Union Gallery

Local production takes on peer pressures in high school

After touring across Canada, Concord Floral has come to the Isabel to tell the tale of a plague afflicting 10 students attending a Toronto high school. 

Written by Jordan Tannahill and originally staged in Toronto in 2013, the show has now made its way across the country. The production at the Isabel will be staged until Nov. 26 and features a cast and crew of professional theatre alum and students of Queen’s Dan School of Drama and Music. 

“I first saw the show in Ottawa and knew I wanted to do it after that” Tannahill told The Journal, explaining his desire to direct the show came from its featuring of a non-linear narrative and realistic take on young people.  

Set and costume designer Sean Mulcahy and lighting designer Jennifer Lennon worked with Director Greg Wanless and the student cast to bring the play to life in the Isabel. 

The designers worked to create the perfect scene for the production, set in an abandoned greenhouse in Vaughan called Concord Floral, once the biggest supplier of roses in the GTA until the owner passed away. The greenhouse is run-down — there are dead leaves on the ground, and decrepit poles around the side of the stage stand covered with flaking, green paint to show the dereliction of the space. 

The greenhouse doubles as a narrator, breaking down the fourth wall as it speaks about the history of the area, structuring the narrative. Alongside, the two animals in the play — a fox and a bobolink — become the only sympathetic characters in the show. 

In its dereliction, Concord Floral is used by local teens for the things they don’t want their parents to know about — experimenting with drugs, drinking, having sex but also being themselves as they live with the repercussions of bullying and the witnessing of various traumatic events.

(Photo by Naseem Laloie) 

The contemporary content of the production is similarly reflected in the structure of Concord Floral. The play makes use of non-linear structures and monologues, illustrating the connections that bind the characters together. This deeply human portrayal depicts teen delinquency in an uniquely empathetic way, noting the context it occurs in.

The show portrays a high school that isn’t far from those most millennials attended. It shows in clear detail that the effects of social media aren’t overblown — it’s a huge part of many peoples’ lives. Many haven’t lived in a world without it, so for it to be a main driver of the play’s action doesn’t overstate its importance. 

The world is tricky and Concord Floral makes that clear. It also shows the broad changes that happen during our high school years, which can turn a bully into someone who can’t overcome what they’ve done to someone else in the past. 

The impact of the production is compounded by the lack of acknowledgement given to the events and experiences of the characters, by everyone simply standing by and letting behaviours we find uncomfortable pass without comment. Concord Floral offers a thought-provoking and compassionate take on the lives of high school students not often seen in theatre.

 

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