Brighton Fringe 2010
The Breakfast Club
Directed by Jamie Martin
Venue: The Jubilee Library
This is the sort of inspired concept that makes you wonder why no-one has thought of doing it before. John Hughes’ popular 1985 coming-of-age movie was filmed in sequence and set largely in the library of the fictional Shermer High, Illinois. This production stages the story in Jubilee Library, using different levels and a staircase as well as the main floor. It even looks like Shermer High’s library, and as soon as the five mismatched students troop in for their all-day detention, you know you are in for a real treat.
The programme notes that this is ‘a tribute to the enduring legend of John Hughes’, and fans of the film will thoroughly enjoy this stage version. The cast appear to enjoy it too. The characters are true to the originals, but the actors do more than just imitating the film versions – they make the characters their own (though Natalie Piper’s disturbed ‘Allison’ is at times uncannily close to the brilliant performance of Ally Sheedy in the film).
The text is largely unchanged and suits a staged version surprisingly well. The action begins and ends in the library, so the parents are not in this version, but that keeps the story and the action tight and fast-moving. The only parts film fans may miss are the two dance sequences. I can see why they might be too much for this production, but it would be the icing on the cake if the cast could include some choreographed pieces in any future development.
Like the original ‘rat-pack’ cast, the actors work extremely well as an ensemble. They spark off each other; their reactions are truthful and fascinating to watch, and the shifting dynamics between them work very well. Also in keeping with the originals, they are clearly beyond high school age.
Jamie Martin’s direction is confident and unshowy. He has an instinctive feel for what is needed to adapt the action from screen to stage and use the Jubilee Library to stunning effect.
Bradley Gardner has great presence as the bullying, rebellious misfit Bender. He also has the best lines which he delivers with good comic timing. Noah Rutter convinces as the driven ‘Sporto’ Andy, on the surface the moral opposite of Bender, but gradually recognising they’re not that different.
Elaine Cree, ‘Prom Princess’ Claire, ranges impressively through defensively angry, vulnerable, playful, and finally honest about how trapped she is by her stereotyped role at school. The most guileless and perhaps the most endearing character is brainy Brian, played with charm and comic innocence by Ben Richardson. He is the one who acknowledges the group’s new bond that Claire finds hard to accept. He’s also the one to write the letter that tops and tails the play, and to name the group ‘The Breakfast Club.’
Andrew Fitzpatrick plays ineffective principal ‘Dick’ Vernon very convincingly. He is easily riled with an edge of real violence and no proper concern for his students. It is in opposition to Vernon’s senseless rulings that the students begin to pull together.
And a final nod to James Bates’ portrayal of janitor Carl Reed, the real eyes and ears of the school. Bates endows this role with all the self-confidence and assertiveness lacking in Principal Vernon.
All this and eighties music too. Highly recommended.