‘Popcorn’ is definitely a play for adults. Crafted by the amazing British-born playwright, now a WA writer, Ben Elton – who very recently celebrated his 60th birthday. Ben has written and succeeded in many genres from ‘Mr Bean’ and ‘Blackadder’, to the script of ‘We Will Rock You’ for Queen. This is yet another genre, with bawdy foul language throughout and yet, as always with Elton, there is a cheeky warmth to his writing.
Elton’s fourth novel ‘Popcorn’ won a highly prestigious Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger Award. Elton adapted this 1996 satirical book into this ‘bloodcurdlingly funny’ play that is part thriller and part social commentary. The play premiered at the Nottingham Playhouse before moving to London’s West End, where it then achieved the 1998 Olivier Award.
This rip-roaring 2-hour drama / dark comedy can be seen at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street in Guildford until Saturday 20th July. Evening performances have curtain up at 8.00 pm, the Sunday Matinées are at 2.00 pm on 7th and 14th July.
The Scene: The year 2025 (?) in California, mainly in the loungeroom of Bruce’s luxury Hollywood top floor apartment. The story depicts those that are ‘recognised’ and those trying to be.
The Set: was magnificent. Designed by Graeme Dick and aided in its construction by Michael Vincent, the structure was solid, futuristic and colourful. Graeme and Adrian Ashman painted the set.
The loungeroom walls were white with grey stippling. Modern stylistic paintings hung around the room. The floor was black and white chequerboard marble, with a deep red, shag pile rug. To the side was a contemporary scarlet and black drinks unit. Centre stage was an ultra-modern Dutch-style coffee table, with two glass shelves on single cantilever legs (quite a find). A black leather settee. Across the rear of the room was a 60 cms high walkway leading to the front door and bedrooms. A jarrah frame and cord balustrade. A large window with red and white candy-striped curtains overlooked the main street. Outside the room’s double doors was an entrance hall with lighting and décor; well done, how often do we have black void instead?
The top-quality properties were supplied by Marion West.
Considering that the scenes were indoors, the lighting and soundscape designs were quite complex and with well thought-out effects by Geoff Holt. The precisely timed technical operating was by Eddie Baross and Caileb Hombergen-Crute.
The show was smoothly stage managed by Graeme Dick.
The self-centred film director, Bruce Delamitri (Tim Fraser), who specialises in blood and gore, has just been nominated for an Oscar as Best Director. Not surprisingly, the public think he is glorifying murder and that he is actively encouraging criminals to join in.
Bruce, his disenchanted teenaged daughter, Velvet (Sophie David) and Karl, his demanding producer (Gavin Crane) are scanning the various channels on the large screen TV, as the journalists and commentators (Paula Hudson, Fiona Forster, David Gribble) warn of troubled times ahead. Bruce, as obnoxious as ever, argues that showing violence does not encourage it.
Just as Bruce finishes dressing for the Award Ceremony, his alienated wife, Farrah (Sarah House – great), arrives demanding that they agree on their divorce settlement.
Whilst at the Oscars, two psychopaths in the style of Bonny and Clyde – but nasty – arrive. They are Wayne (Tim Presant) who is dim, wicked and heartless and his adoring lover, Scout (Sjaan Lucas – loveable and frightening, fabulous) who is also his soulmate, break into the flat to wait for Bruce’s return. They are the infamous Mall Murderers, responsible for 57 deaths – so far. Knowing the police are close on their tail, Wayne has devised a scheme to avoid the electric chair but needs to discuss it with Bruce.
Bruce arrives home with an attractive but intoxicated photographic model, Brooke Daniels (Sherryl Spencer – wonderful) who fancies herself as a would-be diva. Before long they are joined inside his apartment by a TV camera crew, Kirsten the sound recordist (Colleen Bradford) and cameraman Bill (Graeme Dick). Trouble is brewing.
Colleen Bradford was in charge of the various costumes – or in Colleen’s case, the shortage of costume!
This play has tremendous pace and relies very much on an excellent rapport between the cast members. With fast dialogue in an American accent, the potential for problems was increased. However, thanks to great direction by Siobhán Vincent and her assistant Marion West, the actors were perfectly rehearsed, confident and with clear enunciation in the rapid passages.
Ben Elton had developed a selection of very strong but extremely different characters and this cast bonded together perfectly. The interaction was outstanding. Over the years, every member of the cast has proved themselves to be talented, winning numerous awards on the way. Even so, I think for the members of this exceptional cast it could still be their best performances ever. A special mention for the two Tims who were powerful, unrelenting and brilliant.
Superb acting with NO punches pulled. This play is not for the delicate prudish theatregoer, but if you are slightly broadminded there is subtle humour throughout and plenty of shocks.
Loved it. Guaranteed full houses, so get in quickly.