Only in Vaughan, You Say?

Image result for concord floral
Photo courtesy of CanStage

I saw Concord Floral at CanStage this weekend and from the moment I entered the Bluma Appel Theatre, I knew we were in for something different, even by Matthew Jocelyn's standards. Billed as "a gothic urban thriller," I don't think that does this production enough justice. This is a very thought-provoking look into young people's psyches, through the medieval looking glass of Boccaccio's The Decameron. (For some background, here's an interesting project and here's the play's teaser trailer.) Written by Jordan Tannahill and directed by Erin Brubacher and Cara Spooner, the work is the result of a 2012 Festival of Ideas and Creation. Four years later, it's still fresh and oh so relevant.
But it's not for the faint of heart. In other words, you need to love teenagers and understand them if you're to get past the frank talk and subjects covered. 
I found some of the ensemble stronger in their acting ability than others, but the story about a secret and its effects on the youth is intense and engaging. The audience seating, "costumes" (which I assume are the kids' own and change with each performance), use of cell phones, sound effects, music, and the creative staging and props create an intimate experience. 
Several topical themes emerge: social interaction, both IRL and online; family issues; bullying and social norms; sexuality. The plague in the play has Biblical allusions (to my way of thinking, anyway). Towards the end, the notion of mercy is verbalized, not something you hear in teen circles very often. And I won't be giving anything away by sharing a key line towards the end, "I'm learning to get better," which will give you an idea of one of the play's sensibilities and preoccupations. There are points during the production that make the audience almost squirm, and I don't mean the gothic thriller bits. You're forced to watch a girl strip to her skivvies and her vulnerability is shocking considering our porn-bloated world. The cast also lines up and looks silently at the audience for a very long time, and initially you don't know if they're waiting for end applause or if you're being compelled to really face the encounter with them. There are a lot of challenges on both side of the footlights. But it's a worthwhile experience, and it offers some lighter moments of entertainment, too (often at the expense of adults and parents).
My companion and I had a lot to unpack about it on our walk home. If you're up for some affecting theatre, buy online soon. Tickets are already limited and it closes October 16.


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