LuminaTO 2009 – 5 O'Clock Bells

By Sam Mooney


Go see 5 O’Clock Bells!

Tonight I saw the Toronto Premiere of 5 O’Clock Bells, a one-man, eight (or 9, maybe even 10 – I lost count) character play written and performed by Pierre Brault about the life of jazz guitarist Lenny Breau.

I loved it.  I was literally buzzing when I left the theatre – still am.  Best 75 minutes I’ve spent in a while.

Before tonight I knew nothing about Lenny Breau.  His name was familiar but I couldn’t remember where I knew it from.  My son-in-law reminded me that Randy Bachman refers to him often – “the great Lenny Breau” – on Vinyl Tap.  It didn’t matter than I knew nothing about Breau’s life or music,  5 O’Clock Bells stands on it’s own.

Pierre Brault’s performance is stellar.  No props, no costume changes, he becomes each character without ever becoming a caricature.  No guitar.  A little air guitar but his back is to the audience so it works.

The characters tell the story through a series of conversations with Lenny but we don’t hear Lenny, just the characters.  A bit like hearing one side of a phone conversation but easier to follow.  That’s because when each character first appears he or she sets the scene and identifies themselves.  With each subsequent appearance there’s less scene setting and less identifying.  By the end of the play the characters don’t have to identify themselves, they are immediately recognizable.

Obviously you can’t have a play about Lenny Breau without his music.There were short clips throughout the performance, part of the story but not overpowering it. There was one clip with Lenny singing and it reminded me of Chet Baker singing.

I want to mention the lighting.  It’s wonderful.  Deep stained-glass colours and amazing precision.  The lighting is the set decoration.  And it’s beautiful.

If you’d like to know more about Lenny Breau you can read the Wikipedia entry.  You can find his music on Youtube by searching fro Lenny Breau.

Tomorrow – Thursday June 11 – playwright-performer Pierre Brault and director Brian Quirt will discuss 5 O’Clock Bells 12.30 at the Roots flagship store, 100 Bloor Street West, 2nd floor.  This is a free event, part of LuminaTO.

5 O’Clock Bells is only playing for three more nights, June 11, 12 and 13.  Go see it.  It’s fabulous!

– 5 O’Clock Bells runs to July 13th at the Berkeley Street Theatre, Downstairs
(26 Berkely Street Toronto)
– Tickets $35.00
– For more information visit the LuminaTO site

Photo of Pierre Brault by by Steve Boyton for Paul Toogood Photography.