Richard Crane: What the world is in need of is more fools

From a speech by the playwright, given at the International Theatre Institute Congress in Tampico, Mexico

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There are two kinds of fool. The first is the one in the Beatles' song, standing perfectly still on the hill. He sees the sun going down and the world spinning round and no one wants to know him. What are his origins? He wasn't always alone on the hill. How did he get there?

There are two kinds of fool. The first is the one in the Beatles' song, standing perfectly still on the hill. He sees the sun going down and the world spinning round and no one wants to know him. What are his origins? He wasn't always alone on the hill. How did he get there?

To find out, we must look at the other fool, the old jester in the motley, who is part of the community, and has a licence to tell the truth and not be punished. This fool is now almost extinct.

In King Lear, the Fool only appears after his job and the king's have officially ended. Who is he? What's his name? Where does he come from? He appears only at the heart of the drama. The action is running when he joins it and he leaves suddenly before it's over. He comes out of nothing and returns to nothing. He cannot influence the plot. He cannot change Lear's fate. He can tell only the blunt truth and talk in complicated riddles.

The Fool is the theatre. He should be at the heart of national life, not reduced to doing a monodrama alone on a hill. Theatre, like the Fool, exists only in the present moment. It makes you laugh; it makes you cry. It talks in riddles; it tell the truth. And in times of national crisis (as in Romania and Czechoslovakia in 1989) it has been the last permitted arena for resistance, because the tyrant doesn't understand metaphor.

It is also the first arena for understanding between cultures, because, to paraphrase the late global ambassador Peter Ustinov: the hope of the world is in making laughter. Bring back the Fool.

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