Elton’s black comedy a killer of a show

NATURAL BORN PSYCHOS: Psychopaths Wayne (Liam Duncan) and his adoring girl, Scout, (Scarlett Fawcett) enjoy an hot moment in Unity Theatre’s production of Ben Elton’s blackly comedic satire Popcorn.

Correct, rather than direct, was director Dave Hall’s broad-stroke guideline for Unity Theatre’s production of Ben Elton’s satire Popcorn and it paid off big-time.

Elton’s excoriating black comedy about two copycat spree killers’ invasion of an Oscar-winning filmmaker’s home, and ultimately, the public’s complicity in how it all plays out, played to a full house on opening last night.

The script is blackly funny. Laugh-out-loud moments are often mixed with onstage moments of terror, but key to the production’s success is the realism the actors bring to their characters.

From Bret Saunders’ gruff but likeable Hollywood filmmaker to seductive and self-interested Playboy centrefold model, and aspiring starlet, Brooke, Hall has given his actors improvisatory reign to explore their characters.

The result is a truth in their performance, and the way they connect, naturally, with one another onstage.

Saunders’ bearded Delamitri is hip, intelligent and egocentric. Despite blowback from some quarters, he justifies the Tarantinoesque violence in his movies. He brings to his character a vulnerability and ambiguous morality.

Unfortunately his Oscar-winning movie about two spree killers brings the copycat “Mall Murderers” Wayne and Scott into his home.

Actors Liam Duncan (in sleeveless shirt and heavy metal T) and Scarlett Fawcett (tight T-shirt, Daisy Duke shorts and ripped stockings) play the white trash, hick couple with relish.

Duncan’s almost cartoonish character is manic, wide-eyed and dumb but dangerous. He swings between the volatile and tender, high on testosterone.

Fawcett is devoted to him and just as dangerous, but up for girly chats with Brooke. The onstage chemistry between the two deserves an Oscar itself.

Amelia Williams’ Brooke is at once bravely solicitous, pandering to Fawcett’s dream of stardom, and desperate. Even when bleeding out on the floor (Wayne’s doing) she corrects people when she is described as a model. She’s an actress.

Michael Hollis, cool in his black suit and gold chain, is producer Karl Brezner, an arrogant figure who makes the mistake of bagging who he assumes are Delamitri’s Oscar party playmates.

Hollis is at his best when he takes the stage in his stride. He has a strong stage presence and deserves to let his character do the work.

The Hollywood manse fills with other self-interested characters who all become hostages.

As the filmmaker’s alimony-greedy ex, Suzan Anderson’s Farrah Delamitri (complete with 80s hairdo) is vampish but appropriately a little trashy herself. She takes the stage, and the pad’s bar, with a self-interested pout and sway. Even when shackled with her daughter Velvet to a banister, she tells her Gen-X offspring not to slump.

As Velvet, Morgan McLeod plays a natural born, spoilt brat. McLeod plays her so well she too can easily afford to let her character do the work.

The young network cameraman and sound technician, Bill (Jeff Rangihuna) and Chris (Finn Brown), who enter later in the show in their undies (Wayne’s demand), could be more confident but their uncertainty on stage works for them nicely.

The naturalness of each actor’s performance means the show moves along at a cracking pace. The set design is economic – it lets the play speak for itself, and the sound effects – gunshots particularly – bring theatrical realism.

Unity’s last production Macbeth, also starring a mass murderer, enjoyed a sell-out season. Popcorn is sure to be the same.

Do not miss it. It’s a killer of a show.

Correct, rather than direct, was director Dave Hall’s broad-stroke guideline for Unity Theatre’s production of Ben Elton’s satire Popcorn and it paid off big-time.

Elton’s excoriating black comedy about two copycat spree killers’ invasion of an Oscar-winning filmmaker’s home, and ultimately, the public’s complicity in how it all plays out, played to a full house on opening last night.

The script is blackly funny. Laugh-out-loud moments are often mixed with onstage moments of terror, but key to the production’s success is the realism the actors bring to their characters.

From Bret Saunders’ gruff but likeable Hollywood filmmaker to seductive and self-interested Playboy centrefold model, and aspiring starlet, Brooke, Hall has given his actors improvisatory reign to explore their characters.

The result is a truth in their performance, and the way they connect, naturally, with one another onstage.

Saunders’ bearded Delamitri is hip, intelligent and egocentric. Despite blowback from some quarters, he justifies the Tarantinoesque violence in his movies. He brings to his character a vulnerability and ambiguous morality.

Unfortunately his Oscar-winning movie about two spree killers brings the copycat “Mall Murderers” Wayne and Scott into his home.

Actors Liam Duncan (in sleeveless shirt and heavy metal T) and Scarlett Fawcett (tight T-shirt, Daisy Duke shorts and ripped stockings) play the white trash, hick couple with relish.

Duncan’s almost cartoonish character is manic, wide-eyed and dumb but dangerous. He swings between the volatile and tender, high on testosterone.

Fawcett is devoted to him and just as dangerous, but up for girly chats with Brooke. The onstage chemistry between the two deserves an Oscar itself.

Amelia Williams’ Brooke is at once bravely solicitous, pandering to Fawcett’s dream of stardom, and desperate. Even when bleeding out on the floor (Wayne’s doing) she corrects people when she is described as a model. She’s an actress.

Michael Hollis, cool in his black suit and gold chain, is producer Karl Brezner, an arrogant figure who makes the mistake of bagging who he assumes are Delamitri’s Oscar party playmates.

Hollis is at his best when he takes the stage in his stride. He has a strong stage presence and deserves to let his character do the work.

The Hollywood manse fills with other self-interested characters who all become hostages.

As the filmmaker’s alimony-greedy ex, Suzan Anderson’s Farrah Delamitri (complete with 80s hairdo) is vampish but appropriately a little trashy herself. She takes the stage, and the pad’s bar, with a self-interested pout and sway. Even when shackled with her daughter Velvet to a banister, she tells her Gen-X offspring not to slump.

As Velvet, Morgan McLeod plays a natural born, spoilt brat. McLeod plays her so well she too can easily afford to let her character do the work.

The young network cameraman and sound technician, Bill (Jeff Rangihuna) and Chris (Finn Brown), who enter later in the show in their undies (Wayne’s demand), could be more confident but their uncertainty on stage works for them nicely.

The naturalness of each actor’s performance means the show moves along at a cracking pace. The set design is economic – it lets the play speak for itself, and the sound effects – gunshots particularly – bring theatrical realism.

Unity’s last production Macbeth, also starring a mass murderer, enjoyed a sell-out season. Popcorn is sure to be the same.

Do not miss it. It’s a killer of a show.

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