Peter Houghton

Feature | Peter Houghton Relishes New Work

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Peter Houghton tells us about his upcoming role as Curtis in Joanna Murray-Smith’s new play Three Little Words.

What are you most looking forward to about playing Curtis?

Joanna’s writing, working with Sarah and this brilliant cast. I think it’s going to be a special project because all the right pieces of the puzzle are in place. That doesn’t always happen. I particularly enjoy new work – it’s a bit scary but it’s also a thrill to be in a room hearing a work for the first time. For an audience every word is new. Often we go to the theatre to see how a known work has been interpreted. But with new work, we go for surprise. It’s such a joy to hear the audience gasp and laugh at new revelations and disasters.

What is at the heart of Three Little Words?

Relationships – in this case two relationships which run parallel to each other, but have become entwined and overlapped. The play takes a microscope to marriage. It asks the big question of unions that have travelled through romance, child rearing and have arrived at middle age without the lustre of these earlier incarnations. What’s left? Who are we once our essential roles are fulfilled? Is there anything more? And what happens to our individuality in the midst of all this relating. Are we stifled by the ones we love? Of course, Joanna has a lot of fun with this, but there are also some genuine, heartfelt and frighteningly familiar scenes of marital breakdown. It’s the heart in the piece, which anchors Joanna’s comedy.

Why do you think theatre is a powerful medium?

Other performance mediums are driven by various vested interests in media and business. Live theatre, when it works, trades on a very direct conversation between the artist and the audience. The more uncluttered this relationship is, the better. The history of the theatre is the story of this conversation. What we remember from theatres’ past are writers, actors, directors, stories and the companies that made them possible. And of course, it’s live. There is no substitute for being in the room with actors living through a story. Even our greatest stories were new works once. It’s great that we dust them off and do them again, but imagine the thrill of hearing Hamlet for the first time. Or the cliffhanger at the end of Romeo and Juliet, the near riot the ending must have caused. So being involved with new plays (an always risky venture) is very powerful indeed.

Three Little Words plays at Southbank Theatre from 22 April. Book now.

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