I was recently in the lead role in a Melbourne Theatre Company production, playing an English professor of natural sciences, an atheist, whose son renounces his law career to become an Anglican priest.
That decision is met with scorn and derision, and his subsequent death in a terrorist bombing changes the lives of the family forever. Not exactly a comedy, it's emotionally harrowing for audience and actors.
People ask how I can put myself through it eight times a week. Well, that's easy - I love it.
I wasn't born with the gene that makes me want to hurl myself off cliffs or out of planes, or whiz around corners at 300kms per hour in a moving vehicle. My adrenalin rush comes from performing.
Waiting in the wings, hearing the audience chattering, I feel thrilled knowing that it's up to me to take them on a journey, to use my years of training and experience and living to try to move them and satisfy them. My heart thumps, I flex my muscles and focus my brain on the task ahead. It's probably similar to an athlete on the starting blocks or a racing driver waiting for the flag.
Theatre is different to film and television simply because it's live. Hundreds of people have their eyes trained on your every move, their ears tuned to every word. They hand over their imaginations and wait to be transported to another world.
The punters have forked out significant amounts of cash and gone to some trouble to come and see you, so you can never be blase or bored. The hold we have over the audience's attention is so fragile. Someone having a coughing fit or talking can distract everyone, particularly the actors.
We don't lose ourselves in the characters - we're aware of every lolly wrapper, every whisper, every restless shuffle. We know when we've got them, and when we're losing them. It's a wonderful challenge, from beginning to end. And the moment you lose your concentration, you're gone.
The most common question "How do you learn all the lines?" has a simple answer - sheer terror. The thought of going blank is a nightmare. It happens though, and your brain goes into desperate overdrive, trying to google that lost scrap of data before things get ugly.
And just occasionally, you know you've struck a chord of recognition and empathy with the entire audience. You feel that delicate silence when you could literally hear a pin drop. That's when it's most worthwhile.
Live performance has the capability of uniting the audience, and reminding us that as human beings, we share more similarities than differences. It can move and inspire us to feel for and think about our fellow men and women in a different way.
That's the power of being an actor, and if we're lucky enough to be cast in a vehicle that has the potential to do all that, it is a great privilege. Oh, and the applause is nice too!