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The Shoe horn Sonata by John Misto

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The Shoe horn Sonata by John Misto was published in 1996, which focuses on the perspective of two women, Bridie and Sheila, who effectively reveal to the responders the horrific events that occurred in their past as prisoners of the Imperial Japanese Army during WW2. Misto uses a variety of distinctive features and theatrical devices to portray the concepts of strength and courage in Bridie and Sheila’s relationship. As the responder, we become aware of the nature of the characters due to the intensity and tone demonstrated in the dialogue.

This technique allows the responder to dwell into the mindset of Bridie and Sheila, and this by means draws them into the play. The tone and mood of both protagonists is crucial to discovering Sheila’s secret of betrayal. The varying contrast between Bridie’s loud and angered tone with Sheila’s quiet nature is highly effective in carrying across to the responder the tension caused by these two personalities. The use of these techniques not only arouses a sense of drama and conflict, but also allows the responder to ultimately absorb what was confirmed.

The two main characters bridie and Sheila demonstrates how two human beings can support each other, through the most horrendous events of the war. The vibrant power of the friendship is what holds the whole narrative together. Bridie is the strong-willed, down to earth character and is someone that is capable of great love and affection. To Sheila she was a sole mate. Sheila completes the protagonist duo in the play; she is more concerned with correctness and behaviour and comes across to be a more formal character than bridie.

Through the use of a combination of contrasts “lightning, songs and voice over’s” telling the responder what Sheila did. She slept with a Japanese in return for quinine to save bridies life. This is the climax of the play, revealed in act 1 scene 8, “Don’t look away, would you have gone to the Japs. For me? ” the contrast between bridies loud angry tone and Shelia’s silence is effective. It allows the responder to absorb what happened creating a dramatic atmosphere resolving the tension in the play that it arouses.

Without the elements of humor the play wouldn’t be as affective, as the humor in the play, plays a major part in the story, the text would be very dry with the traumatic horrors of the war. The humor derives not only from the way in which the women used the power of the human spirit to laugh at adversity, but also from the way in which the playwright has juxtaposed those moments of recounting comic events with the memories of the horrors of reality. The use of many projected images adds to the mood and atmosphere of the play.

The purpose of the projected images is to convey the horrors of the war supporting the women’s stories. These images juxtapose the fictional with the real, to differentiate what’s in the present and what is in the past. These images send a sense of reality and creativity to the play. The play also uses great language e. g. descriptive detail in the monologues, imagery e. g. “on four wobbly legs we walk down to the village”; this provides a visual image of the scene and the efforts of both Sheila and Bridie.

Stage directions and music are two contrasts that enable the audience to gain an understanding of the intensity that the women feel when Bridie “squeezes Sheila’s hand”. Misto uses the power of music to support his script as the images and music provide constantly changing focuses for the responder’s attention. The using if song shows the actuality of the viewer which uplifts the power of music. It adds to a variety and emotional sub-text to many of the play’s scenes.

The words of the songs and musical items highlight the notion of the “sonata” dwelling the mind into the past. Another feature of this play is the use of symbolism, where the “shoe horn” is the symbol of the women’s story. It symbolizes the strong loyalty of the characters relationships, as Misto used sound effects “distant sound of crickets” highlighting that Sheila was hiding something. She traded herself instead of The Shoe Horn creating sympathy towards Sheila and loyalty between all other women by the audience.

This symbolism is what completes the plays dramatic nature as the Shoe Horn itself symbolizes the life changing events that the women had to endure. This demonstrates the very essence of the human spirit and the will to survive. The tension is evident as you can feel when bridie declares “Your alive today because of me, don’t you forget it”. The audience, knowing the truth draws the responder to the play. In conclusion it comes to symbolize, the revelation of Sheila’s secret, to the deeds of the past and the reaffirmation of the friendship between the two women.

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