The Pitch & The China Incident

The Pitch & The China Incident

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Cremorne

2nd February – 9th March 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Peter Houghton wrote The Pitch for himself to perform, and The China Incident for his wife. He must have felt super confident about his own and his wife’s abilities because these one-act one-actor works are HARD WORK. Luckily, not for us, so we can sit back and enjoy a rare night of fun, fast comedy that doesn’t give us too much to think about…until later.


In this double bill, the season opener for Queensland Theatre Company, we enjoy two different pieces, with one thing in common: their extraordinary demand on the actors. This is extreme theatre, and like those who train for an Olympic event, these actors are performance athletes. As QTC Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch notes, there is a clear appreciation of “the virtuosic skills of the solo performer.”


The production staff and the design team must not go unmentioned, since this is a beautifully conceived and constructed doubled-sided set, one room a complete creative mess (The Pitch) and the other, the result of a good deal of money and sensible, sophisticated taste (The China Incident). Simone Romaniuk (Designer), Ben Hughes (Lighting Designer) and Lawrence English (Composer/Sound designer) have created two completely different worlds that perfectly serve the characters and their needs.


The Pitch
Featuring Hugh Parker
Directed by Catarina Hebbard


Hugh Parker The Pitch

Hugh Parker plays the hack screenwriter, Walter Weinerman, who has an hour to finish his story, and refine and rehearse it before a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pitch the concept to a panel of top movie studio producers. The stakes are high, and of course we want him to succeed.


Parker is impressive, impersonating (among others) Russell Crowe, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood and my favourite, Robert de Niro, during the course of the show. He conjures these A-Listers to play the roles in his film, which he ensures has all the necessary elements, including love and revenge; it’s sure to be a box office hit!


Not having read Peter Houghton’s play, I thought the end of it had come early, and I applauded along with the rest of the Saturday night audience last week. Due credit, sure, because what a marathon Parker had run! But after sitting through the final ten minutes – the actual pitch – I thought perhaps the audience had made the right call. In not revealing the outcome, we might have seen a stronger end. I didn’t want to see Walter Weinerman fail. I didn’t want to know that he could, after all his work, just like that, close the door on his career. I didn’t want to feel my heart plunge as I realised that I’ve closed so many doors, just like that, in a single moment, simply by making another choice and walking through a different door. I felt like shouting at Parker, “Nooooooo! Don’t take the call!”


The China Incident
Featuring Barbara Lowing
Directed by Daniel Evans


Barbara Lowing The China Incident

The China Incident (a cleverly misleading title), is a one-woman farce, a tour de force, a journey into multi-tasking career-driven mother mode…it’s hell! But hell can be survived! Barbara Lowing, as Bea Pontivec, gives us a woman on the edge, able to handle anything and everything, and all at once. She juggles no fewer than seven phones, dancing between handsets and leaving on hold, the President of the United States of America. This is such a beautifully balanced and choreographed play that we question nothing and giggle or guffaw at almost everything. The mood changer is a poignant response to bad news concerning a family member, and we see a little more of what’s really important to this high-powered, fast-talking, unstoppable, and indomitable woman.


Quirky ideas have translated well between director and actor, particularly when it comes to movement, gesture and timing. The devil is in the detail, and everything Lowing says and does helps deliver the complex story, piece by piece. There’s a fine touch to this work, a gentle steering by a director who has his own bold ideas, as well as complete trust in the actor’s ability to produce the goods. It certainly seemed as if the degree of difficulty became greater after interval, and had the double bill stayed the way it was to start the week, in reverse order, I’m not sure I would have been entirely satisfied.


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