The Breakfast Club

‘The Breakfast Club’ is an American comedy-drama that was written in 1985 by John Wilden Hughes, Jnr and has been adapted for the WA stage by Brenton Foale.

The 1985 film which starred Emilio Estevez and Molly Ringwald, earned $51.5 million on a $1 million budget. In 2016, the film was selected as being ‘culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant’, and so it has been preserved in the United States National Film Registry.

The Fremantle Performing Artists were founded only about 6 months ago by the multi-talented stage performer, Brenton Foale; FPA is the performance wing of his Western Australian Acting School, based in Fremantle.

Brenton has produced a most entertaining and faithful adaptation, with the production aimed at audiences mid-teenage and upwards. The language was a little strong at times, but was nothing that the kids don’t hear every day at school.

The curtain goes up on this hour and three-quarter production, each evening in the comfortable main theatre at the Koorliny Arts Centre, 10 Hutchins Way in Kwinana – just off the freeway. The performances are nightly at 7.30 until Saturday 28th July. There is one matinée on Saturday at 2.30 pm.

The scenario: It is March 1984. This is the story of ‘The Breakfast Club’ – a group of detention students who have to turn up on Saturday as a penance for their sins. The school in the book was Shermer High School in the USA, but here the location has been transferred to Fremantle High School.

The set: is simple but most effective. The room is the school library, with several tables, desks and a wall of white book cases, crammed with books. For the uninitiated, books are the props dreaded by all stage hands.

        It is seven in the morning, and an eight hour Saturday detention for five, year 12 students is about to start. The austere Assistant Principal, Richard Vernon (Ian Banks) is hovering as the sinners arrive, as requested, with their parents. Brainy nerd, Brian Johnson (Archer Larwood) arrives with his ‘Mummy’ (Sarah Fawcett) and younger brother (Harrison Bond). They are closely followed by honed athlete, Andrew Clark (Cameron Fawcett), who has been brought along by his father (Nick Fawcett). Another parent, Mr Standish (Brenton Foale) delivers his ‘little Princess’ Claire (Arianne Westcott-King).
        Mr Vernon tells the students to sit at a desk, before ordering them not to speak, move, or sleep. The students must write an essay of a 1000 words on who they think they are. The door crunches open, and in swaggers John Bender (Blair Allen), a student with trouble written all over his face, definitely a criminal in the making. When Mr ‘Dick’ Vernon leaves the room, and ignoring the rules, Bender pesters the other students.
        When Bender starts to ask Claire questions about her sex-life, Andrew decides to protect the ‘rich princess’. During the upset, a dowdy girl, looking like the Addams Family’s Cousin Itt, with a mass of hair and no face visible, glides into the room and sits down. She cocoons herself in her Parka jacket, and considers herself invisible. This is the school’s basket case, Allison Reynolds (Rebecca Collin).
        The school cleaner, Carla Reed (Claire Burke), pushes in her trolley and starts sweeping up the mess. She explains to the group how she was once ‘student of the year’ and look at her now. Yes life can change!
       When Carla leaves the kids open up to each other about their lives.
       What will the essays for the unforgiving Vernon reveal?

The programme is most impressive, 20 A4 sides in full colour gloss, and although it was good value for $8, many theatres have found that a selling price of $6 tends to be a mental cut-off point, perhaps an A5 for $5 or $6 might be wiser.

Director Brenton Foale and his assistant director, Abigail Acton have managed to assemble a supreme cast of actors of the ‘correct’ age – not 25 year olds, pretending to be 16 or 17. Often, young actors have the attitude that when selected for a part, their job is finished!  The learning of lines and acting skills are secondary – they are already there; thank goodness this was not the case for this cast. The play’s characters called for dual personalities, the face that everyone sees at school, and their private persona. Every student was outstanding, with a rich portrayal. The cast were line perfect, and managed to give the audience a convincing ‘school bully’ and minutes later, a sensitive tear-jerking reveal.

Some of these actors have WAAPA training, but others have little acting experience, perhaps only a couple of school plays. Archer (Brian) is still only 15 yrs. old, and yet he managed to match the older actors’ finely observed characterisations.

Koorliny sounds a long way from Perth, but it is only a 30-minute trip and this fine show was well worth the journey.

An extremely impressive first production, with great set, good teching (Jayden Lyon), fine makeup by Amy Rattray, and of course superb acting. Try and catch it.