fringe: the breakfast club

little red productions presents the breakfast club
"You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at 7 o'clock this morning. We were brainwashed."

The Breakfast Club is one of the touchstone movies for kids who grew up in the 80's. Even though the five characters never leave the school they each go on a journey and come out at the other end as different, and hopefully better people.

Little Red Productions manage to translate that feeling fairly successfully to a more updated setting and modern youth, all within the space of an hour... even though I did find myself comparing the production against the movie at almost every turn.

That's not to say that there weren't issues. Possibly the largest of which was the fact that the radio mikes that each of the actors was wearing was either giving almost no sound or would go soft, loud, soft, loud depending on how the actors moved their heads.

There was also a section from the end of the movie that has been moved, for no apparent reason, to the middle of the play. And it felt out of context, both from the fact that it clearly doesn't go there, but also because the characters are at two completely different points in their journeys and to take their interactions at that latter point of the story and shove that scene before the more cathartic release scene that was still to come made for a somewhat tonally unbalanced version of the story.

It's hard not to judge each of the roles against the movie, but Matthew Farrand's performance as Principal Vernon is probably the weakest of the cast and lacks that menace and aggregation that Paul Gleason brought to the movie. It also wasn't helped by the fact that I think we had the worst of all of the microphones.

The gender switching casting of Dora Abraham as Brianna (the role of Brian, the Brain in the original), although at times a little over the top, didn't bother me that much, and the scene where Abraham describes what she did that landed her in detention genuinely brought a tear to my eye. It does however create a whole different dynamic of that character's relationships with most of the rest of the cast, particularly the role of Bender, since there feels like there's much less danger of a physical confrontation because she's female.

Speaking of Bender however, Patrick Livesey is truly spellbinding to watch as the Criminal.

Yes, it doesn't hurt that he's a very attractive young man, however his performance as Bender is incredibly difficult to tear your eyes away from. He does have one of the best roles in the play, as Bender is the catalyst for everything that happens throughout the story, but Livesey brings such life and energy to the role and never faltered, even when he accidentally cut his hand on his character's knife early in the play.

He's definitely an actor to watch as I can see him going far, he seems to have the perfect mix of talent, looks and charisma to make a name for himself. In fact, at the end of the play I couldn't help thinking that he'd make a really intense Macbeth.

Sophia Webb as Allison, the Basketcase, does well with what is a largely overlooked or easily missed role given that she really doesn't say very much for the first half of the story. But there are a few moments early on where she finds a moment to hold her own with a look or a gesture.

However I'm not sure how much that her monologue is necessary... in the movie she's a mysterious character, you never know very much about her other than what she eventually chooses to say, and even then you're never sure if she's telling the truth. While Webb is perhaps a little too pretty to be that overlooked "every girl" she is still a recognisable archetype and I think that comes across without the extra dialogue.

Angus Giles as Andrew, the Athlete, is sometimes a little too precise with his speech so his dialogue can sound a little too stage-y and a bit fake, although overall he makes for a solid Andrew and his interaction with Abraham on the detention scene was pretty much spot on.

Lastly Caitlin Pudney as Claire, the Princess again reflects a believable stereotype, although her character may not be far enough "fashion forward" or flawless as she could be.

There's also an element of the movie that was missing here in that as the characters go on their journey together they start to remove layers of their clothing as the layers of their armour and division between each other drop away, culminating in the Claire/Allison makeover scene at the end. And given that the play at times moves past those kind of scenes fairly quickly, it could have been an effective way to reinforce that journey.

Especially since there are the addition of some "dance/movement" (and according to the program, Brechtian gestus, which I had to look up) scenes towards the end that seemed a little too... abstract and unconnected. I think I got where they were going with those sequences, but I'm not completely convinced they added that much... although the scene where they're "running through the halls" is well done.

Overall though, it was an enjoyable production. There were moments of humour and pathos coming both from the source material and the casts' interpretations, it's just a shame that they couldn't have perhaps pushed it a little further.

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