The Shoe-Horn Sonata

(INTRO) John Misto’s drama ‘The Shoe-Horn Sonata’ depicts the journey of two women captured by the Japanese during World War ll. The play reveals the unresolved problems of their relationship after fifty years. The reunion of Bridie and Sheila and their problems are dramatized and resolved through Misto’s use of dramatic techniques. He effectively creates images of tension, hardship, hope and survival, friendship and forgiveness to emphasize the relationship between the two women. DOUBLE-HANDER) Misto effectively uses the double-hander technique to dramatize Bridie and Sheila’s relationship. This technique refers to having two characters on stage, this helps the audience focus on the stories of Bridie and Sheila only. This technique is reinforced in the title of the play. The double hander highlights the many contrasts between Bridie and Sheila. Bridie is projected as more confident and assertive, in contrast to Sheila who is portrayed as more shy and reserved. (TENSION) The opening of the drama begins introducing one of the two characters, Bridie.

She stands under a spotlight re-enacting the ‘Kow Tow’ bow in center of the stage then “claps her hands sternly”, immediately revealing the strong assertive nature of her character. Dramatizing the atmosphere, Misto then uses a bright light juxtaposed with its dark surroundings reinforcing the image of strength. The second scene shifts to the motel room where the audience is introduced to the second character, Sheila. Their different approach to life clearly shows as Sheila is more cautious than Bridie, questioning about the interview she is about to give.

Sheila’s values are formed by the English values of her ime and her religious background was Protestant. Her mother was clearly the more significant parent as Sheila was influenced by her mother to wear gloves in public, feeling superior to Orientals and Colonials and keeping up appearances. The reunion of Bridie and Sheila reveals unresolved problems as an image of tension. As Bridie slaps Sheila in Act One, Scene Eight Bridie quotes “You’re alive today because of me. And don’t you ever forget it”.

Though Bridie may believe that she was the one who had saved Sheila’s life when they were at the camp, Sheila cannot stand it any longer she pulls out the shoe-horn from her bedside bureau and throws it onto the hotel bed in front of Bridie. Before Sheilas informs Bridie about how she had gotten the quinine tablets ‘We hear the sound of crickets, distant first, gradually getting louder as the scene continues’. The broadcasting of the junle crickets creates tension as the sound gets louder which reflects Sheila’s inner turmoil and emotional fear. Although Sheila firmly asked Bridie to answer her question ‘Bridie faces away from Sheila.

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Both of them are isolated in spotlights’. This creates tension between the two as the lighting of the spotlight are concentrated on the two and in that moment a voice-over of young Sheila is played to emphasize the desperation of how Sheila didn’t want to lose Bridie. In Act One, Scene five Rick asks, “Did the Japs ever try to take advantage of you? ” Rick’s question have them arguing about the women who slept with the soldeiers as Sheila supported them saying, “they had no choice”, As some had starving children as Bridie strongly opposes, “To sleep with a Jap? How could you ever live with yourself? due to Rick’s question tension grew and gave the audience a hint that there is something that may of happened in the past. (BRUTALITY&HARDSHIP) Creating an image of brutality and hardship, Misto dramatizes the problems between the two characters. During the day Misto highlights the horrifying scenes of when the women of the camp were brutally punished. Images of two women POWs projected onto the screen in Act One, Scene Six were described as, “Stick and bone dressed in rags”, Bridie was one of these women and this is the time she had seen the soldier she got married to.

The technique effectively conveys the women’s survival as the audience is made to confront the suffering the women endured. This technique effectively highlights the physical and psychological abuse women had endured throughout their imprisonment. Hardship and brutality are also evident in Act Two, Scene nine the following quote is said by Sheila “The Japs introduced a new rule at Belalau- No work, no food. So if you were sick and couldn’t get up, you were left to starve to death…” due to this rule Bridie became too sick to even eat and Sheila knew that she needed to be treated immediately.

Another scene where brutality and hardship is evident is in Act One, Scene four where the audience listen to the voiceover of Lipstick Larry yelling ‘followed by the ugly thumps of young Bridie being punched and hit’ after finding the pin she had planted in his loincloth. Bridie’s snes of humor and courage are evident in this scene as is Sheila’s admiration for and devotion to her friend at the time. The audiences are made aware of the brutality of the women’s experiences as the soundtrack to carry the sound of Lipstick Larry beating Bridie. (MUSIC) One of Misto’s ost powerful techniques is music; he uses this to highlight the image of hope and survival as Bridie and Sheila deal with their unresolved problems. Bridie recites, “And I took Sheila’s hand-and I squeezed so hard. ‘We’re going to live,’ I said to her. ‘I don’t care how or what it takes, we are going to survive this war. And when it’s over, you and I will go dancing. We will. I know we will. ’ This tells us of how moved Bridie was as she had just heard the Japanese band play ‘The Blue Danube’. This suggests that Bridie still held hope; hope that they will be okay, that they will survive and that they will make it through the camp together.

In act one scene three a voice over of young Sheila is played “Bring me my boy of burning gold! /bring me arrows of desire”. This is quoted by young Sheila as she is floating in the sea, almost drowning. She sings ‘Jerusalem’ which is an uplifting hymn about the greatness of England which is quite ironic as the English are being bombed by the Japanese. The use of music in the play powerfully creates an image of hope and survival as Bridie and Sheila’s relationship is dealt with. (FRIENDSHIP & Misto is able to create images of friendship and forgiveness to help notify the audience that Sheila and Bridie have resolved their difficulties.

In Act Two, scene thirteen Bridie quoted “She went to…the japs… to a Japanese guard – and… she sold herself to him for tablets. And she gave herself to him…so that I could…have quinine”. This reflects on the fifty years of not seeing one another because of the conflict that had risen after the World War ll. In the last scene Sheila hands over the Shoe-Horn to Bridie “I’m sorry I…kept it so long. Go on take it” this is said by Sheila as she holds out the shoe-horn, it symbolizes forgiveness and a stronger bond in their friendship. In the last scene Bridie and Sheila dance ‘The Blue Danube’, a promise Bridie made to Sheila during the war.

The fast and vibrant sequence of the song also reinforces their reconciliation. Although it took a while for Bridie to accept what Sheila has done for her they both ended up appreciating what has happened to them and acknowledging that it only made them stronger; this is evident in Act Two, Scene Thirteen, “I’d go to the Japs. Again if I had to and I wouldn’t think twice-cause Bridie’s my friend and that’s all there is to it” Misto used the women’s situation to portray his ideas and the fact you can move on with your life until your past is resolved. This is a dramatic theme that relates to everyone just as Misto’s one does.

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