Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Pitch by Peter Houghton, La Mama, June 16, 2006

Pitch by Peter Houghton
Where and When: La Mama, June 14 to June 25, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 16, 2006

Peter Houghton is funny. He is a funny performer and his script, Pitch, is really funny.

Houghton is alone on the tiny La Mama space but he peoples the stage with characters. Not only does he inhabit an enormous number of personages, he plays them as specific English, American and Australian movie actors.

In a tight show directed by Anne Browning, Houghton plays Walter Weinermann, a screenwriter who is rehearsing the pitch for his movie script. Based on Houghton’s own nightmarish experience of pitching a script to an il-matched trio of film financiers, it is a roller-coaster ride through India circa 1935, and Iraq, Afghanistan, Paris and Hong Kong in the present.

Houghton has a perfect, silent movie-style clown face. He evokes locations with cunning vocal interpretations of Indian, Arabic and Chinese musical themes. Through the vehicle of his vivid language, we enter a smoky Parisian bar, the deserts of the Middle East, the garish streets of Hong Kong and a crashing UN plane.

As the fat, cigar-puffing Hollywood producer, he states that there are only four story themes for a movie: mystery, the loser, love and revenge. No one wants the truth.

So the hero’s journey begins. Jones, played by Clint Eastwood – or, rather, Houghton playing Jones as Clint Eastwood – is a CIA or MI6 agent. Jones might be played by Russell Crowe. Who knows?

 He is sent by Miles (Anthony Hopkins) to assassinate Clive (Michael Douglas) with the help of Violetta (Catherine Zeta-Jones). But it all goes horribly wrong when Jones discovers Miles is using him, and not for government work.

Pitch is a romp. Walter, as he prepares his pitch, continually reverts to his own love story with his own Catherine and his revenge story about Clive, the born-again Christian for whom Catherine dumped Walter.

Houghton captures the desperation, elation and panic that accompanies the final stages of any artistic endeavour, particularly when it involves asking for money.

He shows us the movie with meaningful close-ups, jump-cuts, wide pans of the desert, musical interludes and quirky cameos. His impersonations of Eastwood, Crowe and Rupert Everett, Sean Connery and Elijah Wood (Frodo) are clever and his rendition of Robert de Niro is hilarious.

The bottom line, as the media release says, is that Pitch is a riot, particularly if you know blockbuster movies well.

By Kate Herbert

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