Calling All Brains, Athletes, Basket Cases, Princesses, and Criminals
Last week, one of the most iconic movies of adolescence, growing up and dealing with your parents was brought to life on the Mainline Theatre’s stage in Montreal. Proudly, defiantly, it’s put its proverbial fist straight in the air.
Adapted from the original 1985 film, d2 Production’s Dale Hayes reimagined the John Hughes classic, The Breakfast Club. The production gained a lot of attention and praise from Montreal audiences for its ethnically diverse ensemble of local talent, its place as one of the few Anglophone Theatre companies in Montreal, and of course, because it’s The Breakfast Club.
While the show only ran from March 3 to March 6, the shows sold out faster than the rebellious John Bender messing with Mr. Vernon on a Saturday, and with good reason. D2 did an excellent job of adapting the film we all know and love to the stage, crafting a superb blend of cinema-like visual scenes with the dialogue practically everyone knows by heart (if you like The Breakfast Club, obviously).
It really was interesting to see how the adaptation unfolded, as a five-time previous viewer of the movie (surprise, it’s a fav). While the production had to skip out on some scenes, (for instance, at the beginning of the movie when all of the parents drive their kids to the school’s entrance), it was masterfully able to make up for lost plot by reforming pieces of critical dialogue.
As director Dale Hayes put it, “after hours of discussion and debate, we chose the scenes and dialogue that we felt would drive the narrative with a fresh perspective.” Taking lines out of something as well-known as The Breakfast Club might seem like a daunting task, but Hayes says that “through the process we were keenly aware that the audience will expect to see familiar characters, dialogue and scenes”.
Which is why, of course, there was an entire scene without lines devoted solely to when the group dances in the library (which was honestly amazing). The balance created by those kinds of visual scenes and the more dialogue-heavy ones really kept the pace of the play going, and made for a different kind of theatre experience.
Another challenge to the production came from the very venue they were in—the Mainline. For those who might not know, the Mainline has a ‘thrust stage’, meaning that the stage is basically a huge square in the centre of the room surrounded on three sides by audience members. Not a lot of room for trying to run around the school like hooligans while also escaping Mr. Vernon.
That being said, Hayes made the most of the space she was given and changed the format of the scenes, changing up the lighting of the downstage area to portray the hallway, Vernon’s office, basically anywhere that wasn’t the library.
As for the actors, they had to change up their techniques too; as Hayes let on, “the actors had to be directed to play as close to reality as possible in order to draw the attention into the illusion and away from the blocking and the simple set. There can be no rule about not turning your back on the audience on a thrust stage when almost every position has the actor doing it.”
Both the director and the actors made the most of their stage, the actors portraying their roles almost as well as the original cast (I know, blasphemy) while still bringing their own spice to the characters. The diversity of the cast, in terms of language and ethnicity, made the difference in bringing this cult classic to a contemporary audience.
Hayes didn’t specifically have this in mind, saying that “when casting I wanted a group of actors as diverse as the characters they were going to play, but more importantly I wanted actors that understood the emotional conditions of the characters.”
All in all, the production was a definite success, bringing audience members right back to 1985 with its impressive acting, staging and directing. Can it get any better? Duh. D2 Productions now has a residency at Mainline Theatre, which means you can catch more fantastic D2 shows in the future right there. But in the meantime, you can get your fix by spending a Saturday re-watching The Breakfast Club. Better than spending it in detention, right?