Samuel Beckett’s celebrated play “Waiting for Godot” has been the subject of many interpretations. In it the characters wait for Godot, who never arrives.
The play has been the subject of endless political and philosophical interpretation.
Now a new topic is enthralling dinner parties in the fashionable inner city suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
After the triumph of the 2020 Summit, they are asking whether Beckett actually wrote the play as a sort of premonition of Australia in the late twentieth and early twenty first century.
In this interpretation, the characters in “Waiting for Godot” are members of the Australian intelligentsia.
They are waiting for Godot, who is in fact a symbolic representation of some sort of undefined, and yet inevitable Australian republic.
Their story is of course even more boring than Beckett’s play.
I have seen it in English and in the original version, French, and I must say that after both, I was none the wiser.
(Nor, my Lord, was I better informed.)
My theory is that Beckett wrote the play as a trap for the elites.
Ever since the justified embarrassment of those who rushed to denounce impressionism and later Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring , the elites have been wary to say some art does not appeal, or even that it is not to be taken seriously and could be – dare I say it – junk.
There is one large exception to this. If the work has popular appeal, it is to be condemned.
Now it takes strength for someone in the public eye to denounce something the general public hates , as His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has in relation to some British architecture.
I think Beckett enjoyed knowing the elites would put up with the boredom of his play and then have to say it was a masterpiece.
You may ask what has this to do with our constitutional system. Let me explain.
…change your constitution first, said Huw…
I was reminded of “Waiting for Godot,” as I was glancing through The Bendigo Advertiser of 16 May, 2008, while soaking a petite madeleine in my tea.
I learned that His Worship, the Mayor of the City of Greater Bendigo, David Jones, had the day before presided over a citizenship ceremony for his big brother, Huw, whose 50th birthday it was (“It's happy birthday to you for new citizen Huw”).
Although born in Wales, the brothers “fell in love with Australia” after moving to Bendigo on a teacher exchange.
The Mayor became an Australian citizen in 1987, but Huw said he had been holding off for a few more years.
"I was waiting until we became a republic," he said, without explaining who “we” are.
His reason was some dislike for the English.
Perhaps it was something of some relevance to his new country and our constitutional system, such as the incorporation of Wales into England by the Statute of Rhuddlan of 1284.
So he would deign to apply for the citizenship of our Commonwealth on one condition – change your Constitution.
What could be more simple or more reasonable than that?
"But it seemed like a chance we couldn't pass up with David being Mayor,” Huw said.
This reminded me of a former editor of the Sydney Morning Herald who insisted that Australia become a republic before he became an Australian citizen.
Then there was a cartoon in The Australian some years ago showing an angry looking immigrant coming down the gangway of a ship flying our flag.
A garrulous Australian, with a wide brimmed hat, smiles broadly and says: “ Welcome to Australia , mate. What can I do for you?”
The new arrival says: “ The first thing you can do is change that b***** flag!”
Waiting for the inevitable republic?
Waiting for Godot, indeed.