Popcorn shocks audience
by Matt Barton
A generation has passed since the adults have stopped raising their children. The new parental authorities are television, movies and news media. The black satire known as Popcorn, addresses the implications of an unrestrained, toxic culture upon members within it.
Ben Elton, the playwright, presents us with a debate, wrapped up in the homicidal characters of Wayne (Kenn McLeod) and Scout (Katie Bowes). They are an unrestrained mimickry of violence portrayed in the media. They are the product of a culture obsessed with sensationalism; Wayne and Scout are messengers of non-responsibility. Wayne argues that media has influenced him. The violence on TV has inspired him to kill. Those responsible for his actions are the writers, producers and directors of these movies. The attention that Wayne receives on America's Most Wanted bolsters his behavior and encourages further killing.
The character Bruce Delamitri (James Ostime) is akin to Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino. His arguments defend the media and the artist. Bruce is not a mass murderer. He has never killed anyone, nor is he capable of killing anyone. His art is a reflection of society. A violent rape or murder in his films is not reality, but a portrayal of the horrors that can happen. While a creator and a producer of such imaginary violence, the artist can hardly be held responsible for the actions of his audience. Millions of people saw Natural Born Killers, and 99.9 per cent of them did not go on a killing spree. The actions of the audience are of no consequence to the creators. The murderer can claim inspriation, but he is responsible for his own actions.
It is easy to pass judgement upon Wayne and his girlfriend Scout. They are gun toting, grammatically challenged psychopaths. Too easily are they dismissed by society and those who seek to profit as a result of their violent behavior. In the character of Karl Brazier (Nathan Coppens) we see the slick Hollywood producer. Brazier dismisses Wayne and Scout as psychopaths.He ignores the sickness of society and it destroys him in an incarnation of Waynes rage.
Alternating between the absurd natures of a Woody Harrelson psychopath and the pendantic prattle of Tarantino, Elton is merciless in his criticism of violent media and the audience, who are transfixed by the spectacle of “the Mexican standoff.”
Ultimately, one must realize that we as a society are not only products of our culture, but the masters who shape it. We are all responsible for the members of our society. With proper education our society will have the ability to change and improve itself. That is the message I believe Elton wishes to articulate.
The play is well done, entertaining and intellectually satisfying. It does not force the audience to choose sides. In the characters we see the truths and disturbing the natures of a blameless society. The audience is asked to think about the consequences of our violent and sensationalistic media. Sadly, the question of responsibility is never resolved.