Originally published on takeyourseats.ie.
I can’t remember any new year as eagerly anticipated as 2021. After the trials of 2020, we have all needed the sense of renewal, resolution and hope that comes with the turn of the year. Though we are back into a level five lockdown and Covid-19 cases have risen alarmingly in recent weeks, news of vaccine programmes getting underway has provided the much needed light at the end of the tunnel. They say that it is always darkest before the dawn and, finally, it is beginning to feel like dawn might be on its way.
With that in mind, rather than the usual list of New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve looked to some classic characters from the stage to guide us through the next few months. As you return to your home working set up, bake your fourteenth banana bread, mask up to deliver vaccinations, or lie on the couch ensconced in lockdown boredom, bring the following into 2021 with you:
The patience of…Vladimir and Estragon, in Waiting for Godot
In lockdown no-one expects the silent, obliging patience of a character like Patient Griselda. Rather let’s look to the real active, impatient patience of Beckett’s iconic characters, Vladimir and Estragon, as they wait for the elusive Godot. Known to each other as Didi and Gogo, they sing, joke, ponder, argue and insult each other for entertainment as they wait by the tree. They are strikingly human characters, that could easily be compared to many of us in lockdown.
Estragon: What’ll we do, what’ll we do!
Vladimir: There’s nothing we can do.
Estragon: But I can’t go on like this!
Vladimir: Would you like a radish?.”
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, Act 2
The imagination of… Maria, in The Sound of Music
I’m sure plenty of us caught the film version of the musical over the Christmas break – it is the perfect lazy lockdown afternoon film. In fact, at the time of The Cold War the BBC even included The Sound of Music in their programme for emergency broadcasting in the event of nuclear attack. After all, is there anything better to curl up and watch in times of crisis than Maria and the Von Trapps making clothes from curtains, putting on yodelling puppet shows and singing about their favourite things? We all need a bit of Maria’s resourceful, cheerful imagination in lockdown.
“When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.”
My Favourite Things, Oscar Hammerstein II & Richard Rodgers
The optimism of… Arthur Kipps, in Half a Sixpence
Originally played by Tommy Steele and recently revived by Charlie Stemp in a new stage version of Half a Sixpence, the character of Arthur Kipps is a force of irrepressible optimism. Despite the rollercoaster of rising and falling fortunes that Kipps finds himself on, he always finds the positive in any situation.
“Still, half a sixpence
Is better than a half a penny
Is better than a half a farthing
Is better than none.”
Half A Sixpence, David Heneker
The tenacity of…Jean Valjean, in Les Misérables
A former convict, who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, Jean Valjean strives to lead a life devoted to the good of others, despite the burden of a ‘yellow passport’ which marks him as a criminal and of Javert’s repeated attempts to arrest him throughout the musical. His determination to remain kind and caring despite his challenges is something we should all remember.
“There lived a man whose name was Jean Valjean
He stole some bread to save his sister’s son.
For nineteen winters served his time
In sweat he washed away his crime.”
Valjean’s Confession, Claude Michel Schönberg & Herbert Kretzmer
The good humour of…Matilde, in The Clean House
Though she is working as a housekeeper Matilde is an aspiring comedian, determined to find the perfect joke. Humour is in her blood, her parents were both comedians, and even in the most difficult moments she finds life and comfort in humour. Remember to find the light and laughter, especially in tough times.
“A good joke cleans your insides out. If I don’t laugh for a week, I feel dirty”
Sarah Ruhl, The Clean House, 1:10
The kindness of….Miss Honey, in Matilda
Ok yes, she began in a book, but considering the fact that Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s award-winning musical adaptation of this Roald Dahl classic has found its way onto many of the lists of the best productions of the 21st century, I think Miss Honey deserves a place in our list. Everyone’s favourite fictional teacher, Miss Honey is kind and caring to everyone, despite being brought up by the villainous Miss Trunchbull. In the midst of this pandemic, we should follow Miss Honey’s example and spread kindness wherever we can.
“And what sort of teacher would I be
If I let this little girl fall through the cracks I can see,
This little girl needs somebody strong
To fight by her side.”
This Little Girl, Tim Minchin
As Shakespeare said, all the world’s a stage, so bring the best of these characters along as you tread the boards and play your role in 2021. Happy New Year!