Some of you may remember John Hughes’ iconic 80’s movie The Breakfast Club, starring Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, and Judd Nelson,where five students from different schoolyard factions are stuck together for detention one long Saturday – the jock, the thug, the nerd, the fruit loop and the princess.
Adapted by Brisbane writer Drew Jarvis, the Brisbane Arts Theatre has done a brilliant job bringing this classic coming-of-age movie to the stage. Although the show deals with stereotypes, it challenges the perception of the people who inhabit, and sometimes are trapped by, their own stereotype. Throughout the play, each character slowly reveals their inner world, and along the way, discovers that the grass isn’t always greener.
Well cast by director Susan O’Toole Cridland, the ensemble were careful not to carbon copy their on-screen counterparts, and created characters we all cared about – even the thug. In fact, Bender, who is more a misfit rebel than a thug, played by Jeremiah Wray, is the most entertaining. He commanded the stage and drove a lot of the action.
Sometimes it amazes me, the talent that seems to come out of the woodwork and onto the Brisbane stage. I have seen a lot of shows and am continually surprised at the stream of new talent popping up, and The Brisbane Arts Theatre stands out as a company that nurtures this emerging talent. One criticism I have of many community theatre groups is that many of the plays produced come from the old coffers, such as dated who-done-its and superficial comedies, that emerging artists are not interested in performing. The Arts Theatre does well in mixing up their programming to offer contemporary works as well as the classics that challenge and inspire developing artists.
Rochelle Newman is another emerging talent to watch. Playing poor little rich girl Claire, this role provided a good showcase for her, with a challenging character arc that allowed her to explore a great range of emotions. Especially refreshing for her character is the brutal honesty in which she tells the others how it is in the hierarchy of the school jungle. In ‘real life’ they just wouldn’t associate with each other – not because they don’t like one another but due to the social pressures placed upon them by their own group stereotype.
At fifteen years old, Liv Wilson, who played the misfit Allison, is another one to watch. While at times, I felt her a little over-animated for her character, on the whole Wilson did a great job at always been present, especially in the first act when she didn’t have a lot to say, there was always something interesting to watch.
Straight-A student Brain, played by Jonty Martin was also well cast as the golden boy, parent-pleaser, who is too shackled by his own halo to actually enjoy life. Rounding out the detentionees was the school jock, Andrew, played by Christo Barrett-Hall couldn’t have been more perfect. Cool, confident, and handsome, yet un-stereotypically respectful of women as he protected Claire from Bender’s harsh comments. Barrett-Hall played these inner qualities with great light and shade.
The only character that didn’t quite make the audience care-factor grade was the teacher Mr Vernon. His role is a hard one with little character development as he only enters momentarily to yell at the students, and then leave again. Apart from being brought out of the play as an audience member because Jarvis looked a little too young to be playing that role, the character seemed to be very one-dimensional. Even though all he does is power-trip over the students, he didn’t always have to yell like he’s got steroid rage. Moments of light and shade could be found through various expressions of control and status. Sometimes stillness or a controlled, measured tone is even more menacing. The rage just seemed like a lot of hot air, which the students just blew off. Maybe that was the point of Mr Richard ‘Dick’ Vernon. In any case, making interesting choices would have made this character more watchable as well as fun to play.
The school library set (designed by Luis Sidonio and Ivana Citakovic) was clever with the added dimension of the window view into Mr Vernon’s office and back doors of the classroom leading into the hallway. The only criticism was one really long scene change, which I am sure will become smoother through the run.
It doesn’t matter whether you have seen the movie or not, as the stage show is entertaining regardless. Although those who remember the Eighties will get a little extra nostalgic kick out of it. The Breakfast Club is playing at The Brisbane Arts Theatre till August 2.