Theatre Popcorn Nottingham Playhouse

The ads for Popcorn, the stage version of Ben Elton's best-selling novel, carry the warning/ come-on that "This production contains strong language and images of sex and violence." If Popcorn were simply a comic indictment of screen violence and its desensitising effects, this ploy would seem more than a little hypocritical, a News of the World-type beckoning to the tittilations of moralising prurience. In fact, Elton's intelligent, funny and highly enjoyable play aims its weapons at a quite different target.

Popcorn centres on a Tarantino-esque director, Bruce Delamitri (played by Vincenzo Nicoli), and it imagines a situation where his fiction is suddenly upstaged by brute fact. On the morning after he has received an Oscar for one of his ironic, post-modern gore fests, Delamitri finds himself held hostage in his own mansion, along with an alcoholic soon- to-be ex-wife, teenage daughter, and luscious Playboy centrefold. The sexy Southern white trash couple pointing the guns (excellent Patrick O'Kane and Dena Davis) are the Mall Murderers whose killing spree across the States has been condemned in the Press as a copycat version of the one in Delamitri's film.

Elton's main concern is not whether there is a direct link between violent art and life. The killers themselves don't actually think so, though their plan is to force Delamitri to make a penitent televised statement taking the blame for having "inspired" their brutalities. What centrally intrigues Elton is the victim-culture in the US which this couple are cannily exploiting. "Guilty but innocent: you can be both in the Land of the Free - providing you've got an excuse." By which token, O J Simpson is not a cold-blooded wife-murderer but the victim of a white police officer. The Menendez brothers aren't the abusers, they're the abused. If the newspapers posit a direct link between screen violence and real violence, then it's open to the criminal, Elton sees, to shift the blame to artists.

As he showed with Gasping, his comedy about the privatisation of air, Elton is adept at taking the logic of a situation to its blackly comic limits (and he does that right to the very last moments in Popcorn). By and large here, he avoids his tendency to practise the very thing he is attacking, which was all too evident in his play Silly Cow, a hate-filled, petty play about a hate-filled, petty female journalist. What impresses about Popcorn is its even-handedness. The white-trash killers score as many points off the moral vacuum at the core of Delamitri and his art as he scores off an America of victim support groups and contradictory subjective views of what the law is.

Laurence Boswell's production is well-acted and extremely diverting, but the violent bits look too unreal and stagey to have any real moral impact and the jokes with cinema conventions (like the Mexican stand- off gag) don't have the sick self-reflexivity that they'd have on screen. The novel has a whole dimension of sharp media comedy (the irresponsible rivalry between NBC and the police at the scene of the siege) that is inevitably lost here. The book also keeps shifting, tellingly, into the format of a film script. A movie version, with its layers of risky, ironic self-implication, would be the logical habitat for this material, even if Tarantino cannot be persuaded to play the Delamitri part.

n To 12 Oct (0115-941 9419).

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before