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Brief Shoe Horn Sonata Essay

A wise man once said, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”. Two women who go through horrific scenes of war and ill treatment of the Japanese but their friendship is what gives them purpose, comfort and strength to carry on. Though after fifty years of the War and of being separated they have no ill feelings toward the Japs but are emotionally torn by their separation. This is the story of The Shoe Horn Sonata.

The Shoe-Horn Sonata is characterised by having a two act structure, two main time frames, two settings and two main characters. The two sets are: the television studio and the motel room. These are visually presented depersonalised and simple, allowing theatrical flexibility. The interplay of dialogue, music, sound effects and projected images work together to create wartime setting and an extra emotional dimension to the play.

The audience’s proximity to the stage enhances the intimacy created by the bareness of the stage and the re-connection of the two main characters: Bridie an Australian Army Nurse & Sheila a British Civilian. The broad emotional feel of the play is embedded in the dialogue of the script that uses idiomatic expression and juxtaposition to individualise the characters personalities and backgrounds. Descriptive Language is used to recapture the past, exposing fears, secrets and hopes. Humour is also used to soften some of the horrors of the past.

The conversational tone of the interview sessions add explicit detail while establishing the creditability of the witnesses. Music complements the visual action of the text. The lyrics of songs and the chosen music illuminates multiple interpretations of ‘sonata’ within the play in that the music often functions to relay historical events and the more personal story of Bridie and Sheila. Even when the numbers in their choir decimated they continued for they thought it was up to them to carry on.

We sang our sonata whenever we could so the camp would know there was still music left”. Music therefore became pivotal to their survival, a symbol of willpower and determination. This is seen in Act One, Scene 3 with the singing of ‘Jerusalem’. It highlights the historical context of the scene and it is also sung by Bridie and Sheila to help them get through their ordeal of waiting in the water when their ship had been sunk. These projected images reinforce the historical accuracy of what is being said.

It allows the audience to visualise not only the action between the two main protagonists but also of the projected images. These images juxtapose and resonate deeply within the responder. These images are a background to the dialogue and show a glimpse in the past containing photographs of ships burning in Singapore Harbour, the Japanese invasion and the malnutrition of prisoners at war. They effectively communicate information and ideas as well as linking the past to the present.

Light is another among the many other visual devices used in the play to help develop themes and characters. It is used simply and effectively to create atmosphere within the text, as well as to draw attention to the characters. This is done through the interplay of light and dark, via spotlighting, blackouts and fade outs. When Bridie and Sheila are emotionally separated they are often lit separately, whereas once reconciled by the end of the play, they are lit in partnership.

This also highlights the power of the theme friendship in the play. As they dance, the lights gradually fade while the spotlight shines on the shoe horn. This visually indicates its symbolic importance, as an object that brought them together, forced them apart and then in the end reunited them. Therefore it is evident through the various effective visual and literary techniques, that this distinctively visual texts convey distinctive experiences and therefore change the way we view visual elements and our perception of them.


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