It’s a simple idea: A man has an hour in which to prepare for the pitch that he will deliver to three potential producers in order to make the film which will make or break his career as a screenwriter. An idea that’s so simple in fact that it has the potential to go very, very wrong, and in lesser hands it probably would have. However Peter Houghton in his one man show The Pitch carefully manages to walk the line between comedy and cliché, pathos and pastiche without succumbing to obvious pitfalls, and the end result is a performance that is extremely funny and absolutely captivating. This is no small feat considering he manages to hold his audiences’ attention for close to ninety minutes.
During the performance Houghton runs through a gamut of characters, emotions and increasingly absurd movie storylines as we watch his alter-ego Walter Weinermann create the film that he is about to pitch. The film itself is filled with clichés and is a loving pastiche of Hollywood at its worst, indulging in over the top action sequences, overblown romances and annoying “buddy” characters, and as a result anyone who enjoys these types of Hollywood films is sure to find much to laugh at in The Pitch.
However a film wouldn’t be anything without its stars, and Houghton’s characterizations include actors as diverse as Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, Catherine Zeta Jones and the very funny Chris Tucker. They come alive through his excellent physical gestures, bodily poses and complex vocal acrobatics. While his vocal mimicry may not always be spot-on, the enthusiasm and self-belief with which he approaches telling this story convinces his audience completely. Though David Franzke is listed as sound designer, Houghton also provides most of the incidental sound effects and musical excerpts to the film’s non-existent soundtrack to great comic effect.
The Pitch premiered in June 2006 at La Mama Theatre (who once again have proven their theatrical relevance) and has made the transition into the Malthouse’s Beckett Theatre very comfortably. Anne Browning’s directing is almost invisible, in that her attention to detail has resulted in a performance that appears to spontaneously take place, leading the audience to no doubt suspect that the play had directed itself, and for this accomplishment she is to be highly commended. Paul Jackson’s lighting design is elegant and doesn’t draw focus away from the performance and instead brings you closer to the story, while the set is used to great effect throughout the performance.
Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid to Peter Houghton is that by the end of the performance, you genuinely feel as though you’ve seen the movie that he’s described. In fact it’s probably rotting away right now in your local video library’s $1 dollar section. If I seem reluctant to describe what actually takes place during The Pitch it’s because, as any good movie critic knows, sometimes the smallest mention of the plot can spoil the experience for others, and The Pitch like the best cinematic experiences is a performance that needs to be savoured and discovered for yourself. So if you want a night of great entertainment but your local multiplex is only showing mindless American drivel, go and see The Pitch instead, because despite its Hollywood pretensions it won’t lower your IQ.
Malthouse Theatre presents
Written and Performed by Peter Houghton
Venue: Beckett Theatre, CUB Malthouse
Season: Wednesday 4 April – Sunday 28 April 2007
Opening: Thursday 5 April
Performance Times: Tuesdays at 7.00pm, Wednesday – Saturdays at 7.30pm, Sundays at 7pm. Matinees – Saturday 14 April and 21 April at 2.30pm; Thursday 12 April at 1.30pm.
Tickets: $15 - $30 + booking fee
Bookings: Malthouse Box Office 9685 5111 | www.malthousetheatre.com.au