The Breakfast Club [VIC]
Thankfully I didn’t have the opportunity to refresh my memory of The Breakfast Club: The Movie before seeing ARC’s production last night as I had to review at very short notice, resulting in a completely blank mental canvas for the performers to work with. And, after the performance I experienced, I won’t need to go back to the movie for a long time.
The Breakfast Club, for those not familiar, tells the story of five high school kids in 1984 who are all stuck in a nine-hour (yes, nine) detention on a Saturday. Through their semi-Stockholm situation the ‘princess,’ ‘basket case,’ ‘criminal,’ ‘athlete,’ and ‘brain’ find that, in the end, they’re not all that different after all.
On entering the theatre we were met with an appropriately furnished 80’s schoolroom with a looming projector screen overhead. The opening sequence (a video) appeared on said screen introducing us to each character as members of their family (Director Anthony Ventura, Andrew Jameson, Brigid DeNeefe, and Ella Ventura) dropped them off at school. The audio quality of the video was excellent and it successfully set the scene for the entertaining acting ahead.
At this point I would like to mention the outstanding physical comedy presented by nearly every actor on the stage. Spencer Hadlow’s (Brian Johnson) silent, OCD ordering of his pencils elicited appropriate giggles from the audience while Jessica Martin (Allison Reynolds) successfully stormed and skulked her way into the classroom under a number of layers of rather unflattering hessian. Ventura clearly understands that you don’t need to constantly make noise on stage to affect the audience. A drummer friend once told me that it’s not the beats that are important, it’s the bits in between the beats that matter, and this is certainly true of this production. A combination of excellent timing, intelligent direction, and a powerful on-stage dynamic makes this production a bit of a gem.
Although the five characters are highly stereotypical, each performer played their part naturally, without feeling the need to pander to cheap laughs. Kudos to the lot of them. The star of the evening, however, was Julian Campobasso as John Bender. Unfortunately living on the other side of the city means that I have never had the opportunity to see Mr Campobasso at work before and I have obviously been missing out. The combination of wit, sarcasm, intelligence, and pain were spectacular and he actually had me physically on edge during the speech about his home life. Well done.
Luisa ‘Yes, That’s Her Real Hair’ Tascone did a fantastic job as Claire ‘The Princess’ Standish, and her honesty in Act II was particularly powerful. Jessica Martin (Allison ‘The Basket Case’ Reynolds) sounded hilarious with her variety of intriguing noises but, from where I was sitting, I unfortunately couldn’t see 95% of what she was doing (although, judging by the laughter, those that could see her thoroughly enjoyed whatever was happening). Felix Berger-O’Neil (Andrew ‘The Athlete’ Clark) and Spencer Hadlow (Brian ‘The Brain’ Johnson) were also excellent and the audience enjoyed many of Hadlow’s throwaway lines immensely, especially during the sharing of the communal joint. Nicholas Durbridge (Mr Richard ‘Dick’ Vernon) and Billal Hassani (Carl Reed) both supported the main cast well and Hassani delivered Carl’s perspectives on life thoughtfully and deliberately.
Sound throughout the night was natural and set at a very comfortable level with only one minor hitch of a mic. pack going on strike in the middle of Act I. Each scene was framed by lighting fade ins and outs that, unfortunately due to the equipment (LED cans?) didn’t work quite as well as they should. LED cans don’t seem to like fading – they just want to be on or off – so instead they kind of flickered down before suddenly turning off instead of fading into darkness. Unfortunate, but easily overlooked considering the rest of the production was of such high quality.
Apart from some unfortunate talking after the house lights went down, marking the start of Act II (that means you stop talking, people), ARC’s The Breakfast Club is an excellent night out that’s not too long and pushes all the right buttons in between. And there’s only two shows left so get in quick if you want to get along.