The Breakfast Club
Brisbane Arts Theatre
June 28 – August 2 2014
Reviewed by Maree Butterworth
WHAT do you do if you’re caught in detention on a Saturday morning? Cause a ruckus of course!
Brisbane Arts Theatre’s The Breakfast Club gives a glimpse of what detention should be like…well in an American, eighties-fashioned-way as students serve their long Saturday sentence.
Contrary to many of my 1980s born mates, I hadn’t seen the John Hughes cult-classic film released in 1985. When provided the opportunity to see the opening of the show on Saturday, I was faced with the decision – Do I watch the movie prior, or go with a fresh mind? Knowing a great deal of potential ticket holders would contemplate seeing the show because of interest fuelled by the film 29 or fewer years’ ago, I decided I’d go ahead and watch the film first.
Brisbane Arts Theatre’s version was adapted for stage by Drew Jarvis and directed by Susan O’Toole Cridland. I was drawn into the five characters representing high school stereotypes – the jock, the princess, the basket case, the criminal and the nerd.
The main set is effective, obviously not the massive library in the film, but a smaller imitation to fit the Petrie Terrace stage, with the teacher, Mr Vernon’s office upstage where he (played by Jarvis), thought he could watch each student’s move.
While some accent slips in the beginning are distracting, the actors seem to settle into their characters quickly, enabling the audience to relax and be sucked into the 1980s, where all that seemed important was wrestling, the prom, grades, and for some, just getting by. I enjoyed the quirks of all characters. There were, however, two moments that made me sit up, and by looking at fellow audience members, the same moments seemed to get their attention as well.
The first is Bender’s monologue, in which he (Jeremiah Wray) describes what home life must be like for the nerd, Brian (Jonty Martin) and compares it to his own. The second moment is Andrew’s monologue, in which he (Christo Barrett-Hall) describes why he has been subject to detention. These were the “shit just got real” moments when I started believing what I was seeing unfold on stage, despite just enjoying often humorous incidents in sequence. I guess it was because at that point we started seeing the actual conflict within each character rather than the conflict between each character. And that’s what the play is ultimately about; the internal struggles and journey of each character and what manifests externally when they’re brought together.
Wray and Barrett-Hall are standouts, but are strongly supported by the princess (Rochelle Nolan), the nerd, the basket case (Liv Wilson) and of course, the highly short tempered, veins-in-neck-popping-red-faced, power-tripping teacher, Mr Vernon.
Some down points of the show, which may be sorted as the season progresses, included the flow being jeopardised by clumsy scene changes. A main one was in the first act when the set (including tables and chairs) needed to be moved back to accommodate the subsequent school hall / locker scene. Two people were brought on stage to do this and unconvincingly played the roles of the school’s janitors. Perhaps the solution is blackening the stage to do this, or making the janitors more completely characterised with cleaning trolleys. I can imagine them whistling a well known eighties tune while they clear coke cans and rubbish, and could even cameo later in the play. There were also some scenes that worked well in the film, which I don’t believe transferred well to stage. For example, some scenes when the characters danced came across to me as fillers. Each act was relatively short, so perhaps the action could have been snappier, and placed in a juicy one-act play.
In saying that, overall I enjoyed The Breakfast Club and the audience members surrounding me seemed to as well. The down points mentioned cannot overshadow the fantastic work by the cast. With most of the cast on stage for the duration of the play, it’s great to see their focus and dedication to their roles. They bring to life a story that resonated with teenagers in the mid-eighties, which is still relevant now.
So should I have watched the film first and should you if you haven’t? It doesn’t make a difference. If you haven’t seen it, you will understand the characters and the storyline easily.
If you have seen it, you’ll recognise many of the iconic moments from the film and be pleased to revel in nostalgia.
The Breakfast Club runs at Brisbane Arts Theatre until August 2.
NB:The Breakfast Club contains explicit language, drug use and sexual references.