Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Pitch, by Peter Houghton, Dec 11, 2007

The Pitch
by Peter Houghton, Malthouse Theatre
Where and When: Beckett Theatre, Malthouse until Dec 16, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

If you have seen a Hollywood blockbuster you will recognise the movie cliches satirised by Peter Houghton in The Pitch. 

If you have ever pitched a screenplay to a producer you might feel faint, so carry smelling salts or just close your eyes and think of England – or Hong Kong, Afghanistan or Paris. Houghton’s fictional movie travels to all these exotic locations.

Houghton, directed by Anne Browning, creates a parade of characters beginning with as the wannabe screenwriter, Walter Weinermann. Walter is desperate to complete his script and prepare for his story pitch to three movie producers with absurdly diverse tastes, politics and backgrounds. Simon is a wealthy English dilettante, Syd is a corporate US film distributor and the third is a feminist critical theorist. He can’t please ‘em all.

The Pitch is a frenetic gallop through place and time in Walter’s movie and Houghton switches between characters at will.  As Walter, he paints a vivid screen picture of the English army in the Hindu Kush in 1936 or of a smoky Parisian nightclub. He vocalises an entire soundtrack including an evocative Afghani chant, an Asian musical theme for Hong Kong and sexy blues for Paris.

He hilariously reproduces sound effects: bombs, gunfire, aeroplane, street fights. Watching Walter’s mind in a panic as he struggles to find the perfect story presentation is like witnessing a man fighting an internal war. He looks as if his head will explode any minute.

The panoramic journey is a spy story about Jones, an assassin portrayed by a cool Clint Eastwood (or it might be a bolshie Russell Crowe). Jones is sent by his spy boss, the oily Anthony Hopkins, to meet the seductive Catherine Zeta Jones and must kill Michael Douglas.

Walter attempts to incorporate every formulaic Hollywood element into his character’s journey: be more than you are; overcome a disadvantage (Clint is illiterate); find love; and seek revenge.

Between plot points we see Walter contending with his own demons about his cool as a cucumber ex-girlfriend, also called Catherine, and her Jesus-freak, recovering alcoholic boyfriend who Walter murders in the guise of Michael Douglas. Revenge is sweet – even if it is fictional.

After three seasons, The Pitch is still a very funny ride – even if it does look a little exhausted.

By Kate Herbert

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