Playing the fool on the Shepparton stage again

By John Lewis

Every once in a while on this desperate search for truth and beauty, you have to drop the pretence of seriousness and just laugh.

Otherwise you'll cry an ocean of tears at the dumb reality of things.

I once thought the world could not get any more deliciously absurd than Monty Python's fish slapping dance.

You know the one where Michael Palin in a Pith helmet minces up to John Cleese playing an officer-type and slaps him lightly in the face with a couple of pilchards next to a canal.

Cleese then produces a giant trout and whacks Palin into the water.

This still has the capacity to reduce me to tears depending on how many glasses of Gewurtztraminer I've consumed.

It sort of sums up the pathetic naivety of people who pay court to vicious authority figures. And it's also just rib-damagingly funny.

I always thought it was the height of absurdity.

Then along came Donald Trump.

So the world is uglier and more hilarious than we can ever dream of, even in our most nonsensical imaginations.

And the last resort of the swindled, the shafted and the bamboozled is always comedy.

The almost forgotten English writer Horace Walpole said: "The world is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think".

I think we are all a bit of both types at different times in our lives.

Right now, it's time to be funny, so I auditioned for the Shepparton Theatre Arts Production of the ridiculous British stage farce Noises Off.

The script is packed with people falling in and out of windows, down stairs, losing their pants or their skirt or their boyfriend or their plate of sardines.

There is absolutely no deep insight into life at all except for the observation: "It's all about doors and sardines darling, doors and sardines".

Which is actually quite profound in a Woodstock sort of way.

The character I most identified with was a chap called Selsdon Mowbray, a slightly deaf elderly British actor in the twilight of his career reduced to playing in amateur theatre who fumbles lines and hides bottles of Scotch around the set for his own consumption.

I thought, I can do that.

Anyway, I reached down into the limitless depths of my talent for cackhanded tomfoolery and public humiliation and cripes - I got the part.

Right now I'm reciting lines while climbing through windows, hiding plates of sardines under the sofa and bottles of Scotch in the toilet. There's also a cactus involved which I can't say too much about because this is a family newspaper.

That was last Saturday at home.

Eventually I'll read the script and start rehearsing.