Cathia Pagotto used nostalgia and memory to develop the colour palette and set of creature/creature’s production
Rose-coloured, shadowy, sepia-toned; our memories can become tinted in many different colours as the years pass. This is exactly the effect Cathia Pagotto was aiming to portray when she designed the set and costumes for Chlorine, the current production of Centaur Theatre’s Brave New Looks. From a childhood marred by bullying, to teenage years dealing with disability and coming of age, Chlorine tells the story of the incidents that happened to Sarah, a young girl in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
“Chlorine’s main set piece is a large, 28-foot backdrop featuring the landscape of the Eastern Townships,” described Cathia. “We chose a minimalistic, geographical backdrop so as to accommodate the shifting locations throughout the play. We chose to add a narrow-depth, intimate feeling to the performance by placing the backdrop nearer to the front of the stage in order to push the action and the performers closer to the audience.”
The narrator of the play is Nathan, who grew up in the Eastern Townships with Sarah and through whose memories we see the story unfold. He recalls when Sarah was forced to drink chlorine at age eight by a group of bullies, which paralyzed her and burned her vocal cords to such an extent that she cannot speak, as well as the series of events which led to him spending many hours with Sarah while they were teenagers. He alternates between telling the story and taking part in the scenes of his own memories.
“As the narrator, Nathan is talking about events that happened 10 years ago,” explains Cathia. “He is describing his own memories about the incident and that period of his life which are anchored in his mind and his past. The set’s backdrop reflects the fact that this is being told from the perspective of memory.”
The incredible landscape that Cathia designed and produced is made from 480 sheets of paper pieced together like a puzzle. The landscape it displays appears a little bit distorted due to the sheets of paper being crumpled and the entire image having a reddish tint.
“Through lighting and scene changes, the landscape can appear to shift throughout the play,” explained Cathia. “I wanted to play on the idea of memory and nostalgia, and how the things we remember can get slightly distorted and not always remain clear in our minds. The past is pasted together through pieces of memory, which is why we chose to make the backdrop out of pieces of paper”
“Most of the story takes place within the 1980s, which is why we chose a reddish tint for the landscape,” said Cathia. “Kodak photographs from the 70s or 80s tend to age on the warm side, with a reddish tint, so it gives the entire landscape the effect of being a memory.”
Cathia also incorporated the feeling of memory into the performers’ costumes. “Sarah’s parents are less clear in Nathan’s memories,” Cathia explained. “They are dressed in a palette that blends in with the warmly tinted background. Meanwhile, Nathan is dressed in cooler colours to help him enter and exit the past and present more fluidly, and better define his role as narrator. Sarah remains more vivid in his memories, though, in my opinion, and her palette bridges the past and the present.”
Chlorine is at once a tale of the life-altering consequences of bullying and a nostalgic coming of age story. Written and choreographed by Florence Longpré and Nicolas Michon, translated and directed by Johanna Nutter, Chlorine runs at Centaur Theatre from October 19-29.