Drama club digs into Breakfast
The Breakfast Club lighter-than-usual fair for SACHS theatre group
Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 06:00 am
St. Albert Catholic High is making a radical departure from the heavyweight productions it usually mounts – shows such as The Trojan Women and The Crucible.
This year director Debbie Dyer is mounting The Breakfast Club, a lighter coming of age comedy-drama. First released as a John Hughes film in 1985, it brings together five teenagers spending Saturday in detention together.
They know of each other, but are members of different school cliques. Through detention, they come to realize that each person is more than a two-dimensional stereotype they originally perceived.
Critics fawned over the original and considered it one of the greatest high school films Hollywood ever produced. It also became Hughes’ most indelible work.
Smaller than past shows, the cast numbers 10 and the crew tops in at seven techs.
“Last year we lost a substantial number of graduates. About 75 per cent of our acting students graduated. This year is a building year,” Dyer explained.
At the start of the school year, Dyer had a crop of plays on hand. Her young actors voted heavily in favour of The Breakfast Club and it’s turned out to be a strong choice for easing a new troupe into the demands of theatre.
Interestingly, none of her students were born when the film was released, yet they are all familiar with it.
“John Hughes tried to be really honest and that’s why successive generations accept it for their own generation. It’s a cyclical truth in our society. We all experience natural, unexplained divisions in our society. Yet when we are allowed to understand people, there’s an epiphany and the divisions are eroded.”
In the plotline five students – criminal John Bender, athlete Andrew Clark, brainiac Brian Johnston, basket case Allison Reynolds and the wealthy princess Claire Standish report for detention.
They hang out with different groups and initially appear to have nothing in common. They meet in the school library where assistant principal Richard Vernon assigns them a 1,000-word essay to write about who they are.
Throughout the day, they are not allowed to speak, move from their seats or sleep. He leaves and only periodically returns to check on them.
At first they argue and spite each other. But after drinking alcohol together, they open up and reveal their deepest secrets, fears and emotions.
“It’s important that the detention takes place in one day. In that reality you can see that understanding someone else’s reality takes a long time.”
The main figures in the ensemble are stereotypes visible in every school.
The versatile Grade 11 actor Olivia Billsten takes on the role of Claire, a rich girl that exudes confidence yet is laced with inner fears.
Grade 12 actor Quinton Phillopsen peels away the layers in the role of Bender, the troublemaker.
“Quinton has moulded himself for the role and found Bender’s voice. It’s a complete balance of confidence and insecurity. It was a process and I’m proud of him.”
Alexander Willing steps into the role of Andrew, a school jock.
“He’s thoughtful and judgmental, but he allows his perspective to be the most changed.”
Adam MacMahon as the brainiac Brian “possesses the ability to take a moment into the next and have abruptness. He changes his mind on the spot. There’s an abruptness of character and Andrew is able to do it beautifully.”
Only the role of Alison is double cast with Grade 10 actor Emily Viscsak, an overt character whereas Grade 11 actor Stephanie Parth takes a more subdued approach.
And although the script is straight from Hollywood, Dyer is not trying to replicate the film.
Two students in particular have spearheaded the set production. Grade 11 student David Lowe and Grade 10 student Hannah Bailey have built every set piece including sculptures, lockers, water fountains, a rolling filing cabinet and deck for a library.
“They’ve transformed what could be a simplistic piece and given it nuances.”
For Dyer, there’s only one reason to see the play.
“To relive the angst and awesomeness of your high school years.”
This year, the theatre program is donating $5 from every adult ticket to Youth Empowerment and Support Services, formerly known as the Youth Emergency Centre.