It’s one the enduring footballing cliches, parked somewhere alongside “a game of two halves” and the absurdist non-sequitur “sick as a parrot”: “it’s the hope that kills you”. Like all good cliches it invites you to consider an alternative, a refashioning, a making new. John Patrick Higgins’ Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful is an attempt at just such a refashioning.
Its cousin cliche is the idea of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”. The falling at the final hurdle when success seems assured. It’s the sense that no matter how propitious the current, no matter how favourable the circumstances, failure is as inevitable as night bleeding into day. Why bother at all? What if the goal that’s agonisingly fallen short of, night after night, is one that can’t be reversed? What if the ultimate, unrealisable victory is in self-annihilation?
For Higgins, and for Malachy (played with hangdog sensitivity by Christian Talbot) hope is the impediment. The current running throughout Malachy’s undistinguished life and his equally undistinguished prospective death (a blunt razor blade belonging to his dead father, a last meal of KFC and a litre of mid-range supermarket white wine) is a Beckettian belief that the only thing better than dying is never having been born at all. Yet it’s not clear that Malachy fully believes his own rhetoric. He stays alive, after all.
There’s a bit of Larkin, too. For Malachy, as for Larkin, “life is first boredom, then fear”. In this instance, it’s a fear born out of being haunted at the noteless suicide of his much younger partner Skye (“a fucking stupid name, but she was Australian”). It’s a fear that his comfortable, undistinguished life isn’t a subversive comment on the fruitless vanity of others, but just a sad, flabby waste. It’s a suspicion fuelled by self-pity and acute self-knowledge. That’s what makes the play such an effective comment on suicide, its acknowledgement that humans are seldom rational actors, particularly in the matter of life and death decisions. In the end, as Malachy observes, “it’s the fucking hope that gets you”. (FG)
Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful played at Sweet Grassmarket - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/every-day-i-wake-up-hopeful
From Beckett to Stoppard: Existentialism, Death, and Absurdity- http://home.sprintmail.com/~lifeform/beckstop.html
The Silent Epidemic of Male Suicide- http://www.bcmj.org/articles/silent-epidemic-male-suicide
Existential Stress, Anxiety and Meaning Making in Your Life- http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/04/existential-anxiety-stress-and-meaning-making-in-your-life/
Have Men Been Let Down Over Mental Health?- https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2016/may/18/men-suicide-mental-health
The Mind in Solitude: An Interview With Claire Louise-Bennet- http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/tag/samuel-beckett/