UBC Theatre transforms the Frederic Wood Theatre into a greenhouse, sweeping their audience back to high school in their enthralling production of Concord Floral.
Music hums under the crowd’s chatter, establishing an eerie tone as the curtains are pulled back, revealing a beautifully decorated stage. The set completely transforms the space with the exposed framework of a greenhouse. Coloured lights turn the greenhouse into a bedroom, then into a high school cafeteria.
The play’s narrative unravels after two students make a shocking discovery at a high school party hosted in an abandoned greenhouse known as Concord Floral. The building holds distinct memories for each character in the ensemble, supporting the characters through moments that are good, bad and everything in between.
It is given a voice by Rachel Angco, who manages to evoke empathy for the building as she recalls how it was abandoned, then given the chance to bear witness to generations of teens coming of age.
Nearly Wild (Ripley Twardzik Ching) and Rosa Mundi (Belle Nightingale) stray away from the rest of the party, only to stumble upon a presumed dead body. Rosa chooses to try and move past this, but Nearly cannot, as she is haunted by the image of the corpse.
Nearly is pushed to the brink of her own sanity as she begins receiving phone calls from the corpse, later identified as Bobbie James (Julia Eckert). None of her classmates believe her, so Nearly spirals trying to figure out what happened — a captivating portrayal from Ching.
Despite Bobbie’s tendency to linger in the background, Eckert has no difficulty seizing attention through her haunting messages to Ching’s character. There is immense vulnerability in her performance, compelling the audience to sympathize with the high school misfit.
Each cast member fully embodies their roles, committing to intensely physical scenes. Without saying too much, Just Joey (Nico Pante) has a memorable moment with a jar of seemingly Vaseline — it’s both risqué and hilarious, and was incredibly well-received during the opening performance.
Several sequences include almost dance-like movement executed by the entire ensemble, all while bouncing complex dialogue off of one another. One stand out moment was the goosebump-worthy story of Bobolink (Evie Hamilton), a bird stuck in the cafeteria. It screams for freedom, as John Cabot (Simon Auclair-Troughton) does the same — a moving comparison of an animal and a teenage boy both feeling trapped in the world.
The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments are what make this play memorable. Quirky interactions from characters in the background keep the audience entertained even when the story drags in parts. There is always something visually interesting happening on the stage, like memorable lighting effects, makeup tricks or Forever Irene (Talia Peck) silently pretending to be a dog.
UBC’s production of Concord Floral will stick with its audience even after the house lights come up, prompting reflection on one's own high school experiences — for better or worse.
Concord Floral is running from November 23–December 2. Tickets are available here.