Note: The following review is is from Popcorn's run at the Apollo Theatre in the West End, which ended 12 September 1998. From 22 September 1998 to May 1999, the touring production of Popcorn will visit 25 UK cities. The touring cast of Popcorn features John Bowler as Bruce Delamitri, Emma Noble as Brooke, Paul Brennan as Wayne, Clara Salaman as Scout, Liza Sadovy as Farrah, Sasha Pick as Velvet and Craig Pinder as Karl.
I hated Natural Born Killers and had no real desire to see Ben Elton's comedy Popcorn. A violent satire of a violent satire of screen violence? No thank you! So I was quite surprised when I found myself thoroughly enjoying a night at the Apollo recently.
Bruce Delamitri (Danny Webb) is a Quentin Stone / Oliver Tarantino-type film director who, despite public outcry, wins an Academy award for his latest bloodbath. When he returns to his Beverley Hills mansion, still drunk, with Oscar statuette and Playboy bunny turned wannabe actress Brooke Daniels (Megan Dodd) in tow, he gets a nasty shock. His home has been invaded by America's most wanted criminals, the 'mall murderers' - aka Wayne Hudson (Patrick O'Kane) and his girlfriend Scout (Dena Davis). Wayne, the mastermind of the killer duo, has a plan to save their skins - get their idol Bruce to admit on live national TV that his films have caused their depravity.
In their quest for freedom, the murderers take Bruce, Brooke, Bruce's producer Karl (William Armstrong), his ex-wife Farrah (Debora Weston) and his daughter Velvet (Paula Bacon) hostage. Murder, mayhem and, oh yes, a dismembered ear (sound familiar?) build up to a heated and intelligent debate on personal vs social responsibility. The debate is so well-fought that both sides, at turns, appear to have won it. So who is to blame for our actions and society's ills? Everyone and no one, the play seems to conclude.
With the exception of a decidedly dodgy American accent on Bacon's part, the performances of the cast are very good. O'Kane and Davis are particularly strong - they put Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis to shame in their portrayal of maniacal, poor white trash. There are also the requisite jibes at American society and some hilarious one-liners (most of which, given the crudeness of the language, do not bear repeating here).
The play ends with a cleverly tense, if rather contrived, climax and epilogue which give the audience plenty of fuel to continue the debate in the pub after the curtain call.