The Shoe-Horn Sonata Essay
The Shoe-Horn Sonata
Music and sound effects:
Sonata is a musical term describing something written specifically for two musical instruments Music is a linking device throughout the play
Sonata is symbol that occurs throughout the play
Bridie and Sheila burst into song at the end of the first interview session Their performance effectively takes us back to her past
Aurally (what one hears) and visually historical information is conveyed When Jerusalem reaches a crescendo, scene of the Japanese invasion are juxtaposed on the backdrop screens, ironically contrasting image and triumphal song Lacking real instruments, we are told the prisoners had to improvise using their voices alone Even when numbers were decimated and the choir couldn’t sing anymore Bridie and Sheila fill the gap They thought “It was up to us to carry on… we sang our sonata whenever we could so the camp would know there was still music left” Music becomes pivotal to their survival
Music is an aural symbol of willpower and determination
We’d sit in our hut at night and hum. “We’d do it while we dug the graves”. Bridie laconically observes, “It probably sounded bloody awful. But not to us. To us we still had harmony… and the ‘japs’ could never take that away. Voice and spirit are fused, “We forgot the Japanese – we forgot our hunger – our boils – barbed wire – everything… Together we made this glorious sound that rose about the camp- above the jungle-above the war-rose and rose and took us with it” Sheila also sums up its psychological importance, “Fifty voices set us free” Sound effects add atmospheric detail and mood An example is in the opening at where the women describe the sinking of the ship or machine gunning of helpless women and children, “We hear the distant sound of lapping waves”
Visual reinforce the script, the use of photographic images reinforces the context and historic authenticity of what is being said. Evocative glimpses through slides of ships burning in Singapore Harbour, the Japanese invasion and the shocking conditions of the prisoners of war. Distinctively visual methods are used to allow the audience to witness the horrific reality of the period
– This augments the simple set design and the use of a two character cast while helping develop the plays irony and humour
– This is evident when images released by the Australian Defence Department, showing healthy, clean and happy women are dramatically juxtaposed with those that showed them as they were liberated
Lighting and Stage Directions
Light is a key dramatic device that helps develop themes and characters Misto supplies detailed stage directions which specify tone, mannerisms or line delivery to create a particular mood or atmospheric context Directions such as ‘fondly’, ‘slightly surprised’ disapprovingly, ‘very calmly’ ‘ironic smile’ ‘casually trying to make light od it’ position the audience’s interpretive response They also focus attention on Sheila and Bridie’s emotions, building tension and suspense as their relationship fluctuates. The opening stage directions read: “darkness. Out of the silence comes the voice of Bridie” and after her first line of dialogue, she is visually spot lit.
Stage lighting gradually reveals the ‘on air’ sign establishing our perception of the TV studio context The interplay of light and dark, via spotlighting, blackouts and fade outs, help develop atmosphere or mood for the rest of the play 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. As they dance, the light gradually fades away, while a ‘very bright spot light’ highlights the shoehorn
– This visually signifies its symbolic importance as something that first brought them together, then forced them apart, and now, once again, reunites them.