The Shoe Horn Sonata

1 January 2017

The Shoe Horn Sonata By John Misto The scene from The Shoe Horn Sonata I chose was act 1, scene 1. The Play begins on a dark silent set, which evokes in the audience the darkness and pain of the characters memories as well as suggesting their stores have been hidden for too long. Out of the darkness with come truth. The play in scene 1 begins with an army nurse that is being interviewed for a documentary program about her experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese. Misto cleverly uses interviews and discussions between Bridie and Sheila throughout the play to develop the plot by revealing to the audience the events in the women’s past.

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The Opening Scene, with Bridie demonstrating the deep tone/imagery as to the first word ‘Darkness’ , subservient bow, thekow-tow, demanded of the prisoners by their Japanese guards during the war period. It takes the audience straight into the action. The time is now, and Bridie is being asked to recall the events of fifty years earlier. As the first scene progresses we learn a little of Bridie’s character- she is self-assured and forthright, and displays a sardonic sense of humour as she reveals her own situation and that of the women who were evacuated during the fall of Singapore.

We are introduced to the shoehorn, given to her by her father as she was about to be posted overseas, and we gain an insight into the arrogance and ill preparedness of the British colonial powers in the face of the approaching Japanese. The dominant motif throughout the play is that of the shoe-horn itself. We first hear of it at the beginning of the play, when Bridie speaks fondly of it as a gift from her father before she went overseas as an army nurse as “he gave me a present – a shoe-horn of all things! Here it represents for her the joys of home and family, a reminiscence of happiness- of life before the horrors of war. As the play progress its symbolism changes. When Bridie drifted in the sea after their ships have been sunk, Bridie uses it to keep Sheila wake to prevent her from drowning. Despite the seriousness of the subjects there is considerable humour in the way Bridie in scene 1 with how she describes her wartime experiences. Often a way of deflecting the fear surrounding the incidents can lead to humour. It shows that although there is many hardships they still have hope and their lives to pull them through.

With the conflict with Bridie and Sheila, Bridie is angry at Sheila for not trying to keep in contact for 50 years. Sheila told her that she was in England but she was really in Perth. Sheila had internally conflicted within herself because she is holding her secret and her experiences close to her heart as… ‘I never really left [Belalau]”. Bridie is angry at Sheila for giving herself up to the Japs for the Quinine, and for not telling her. Misto’s point to interview Bridie in ‘The Shoe Horn Sonata’ was to convey the experiences and suffering of the females during the war and what they went through.

It also was aiming to try to educate Australians about their history. When he wrote the play, Misto was concerned that the pain and suffering that many women endured at the hands of their Japanese captors after the fall of Singapore had been forgotten and had to be tribute. Misto also evoked a lot of emotions in the audience throughout the play. The Shock/Anger, Sadness, Empathy, Confronted, Happiness for their final triumph of being free, little moments of joy and hope really make the audience feel the emotions that the women had to go through and suffered.

The attitude to women from the Japanese was horribly wrong as they used them as slaves and people to take advantage with. Act 1, Scene 1 in “The Shoe Horn Sonata” shows the determination Bridie went through to go overseas to be a army nurse and with an important figure the ‘Shore-horn’’ went horrible wrong. Misto nailed in questions to find out the truth of what happened in the POW camp and all the relationships Bridie had inside the camp.

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