Loading presentation...

Present Remotely

Send the link below via email or IM

Copy

Present to your audience

Start remote presentation

  • Invited audience members will follow you as you navigate and present
  • People invited to a presentation do not need a Prezi account
  • This link expires 10 minutes after you close the presentation
  • A maximum of 30 users can follow your presentation
  • Learn more about this feature in our knowledge base article

Do you really want to delete this prezi?

Neither you, nor the coeditors you shared it with will be able to recover it again.

DeleteCancel

Make your likes visible on Facebook?

Connect your Facebook account to Prezi and let your likes appear on your timeline.
You can change this under Settings & Account at any time.

No, thanks

Copy of The Shoehorn Sonata

No description
by

Andrew Bigwood

on 16 September 2014

Comments (0)

Please log in to add your comment.

Report abuse

Transcript of Copy of The Shoehorn Sonata

The Australian Government has yet to build a memorial to the forty-one Australian army nurses who suffered during World War II. A few years before writing The Shoe-Horn Sonata, John Misto read Betty Jeffrey’s book White Coolies. Betty had been a member of the Australian Army Nursing Service and she had survived captivity as a prisoner-of-war in Sumatra and Malaya, along with twenty-three of her colleagues. War is primarily a masculine domain and wartime stories tend to focus on men and masculine exploits. Betty’s stories of the nurses’ war experiences obsessed Misto. He carried out extensive research, including interviewing many Australian women who had endured and survived prisoner-of-war camps in South-East Asia. The play The Shoe-Horn Sonata pays tribute to these women who suffered from decisions made by the British, from the deeds of Japanese soldiers and from the inaction of successive Australian governments to acknowledge their contribution or situation.
This play poses questions about the way we construct and communicate our history. While it focuses on the stories of the two fictional women, one British and one Australian, who were evacuated from Singapore as the Empire disintegrated, it challenges us to look beyond the pain of the two women characters at the wider social and political context that has allowed this situation to pass unacknowledged.
The Play's Origins
Character Analysis
Themes
The Healing Power Of Truth
Plot Synopsis
The play has two acts and effectively two characters. The audience does hear the voice of the third character—Rick, the television interviewer—but he is never seen on stage. A number of off-stage characters are also referred to throughout the play and the images of historical ‘characters’ are projected during the performance establishing the wider world of the play.
The main action of the play is set in 1995, but we are also projected back in time to the events of the fall of Singapore and the subsequent ‘rescue’ by the Japanese and incarceration in prisoner-of-war camps. The scenes in the present take place in a TV studio, in the motel/hotel rooms in which they are staying during the filming of the documentary about their wartime experiences and in a neutral space somewhere within the studio. Importantly the scenes also take us to various ‘real’ places during the war, including Singapore and Belalau via the projected visual and sound images.

Analysis
The Shoehorn Sonata
Techniques
Images
‘I do not have the power to build a memorial so I wrote a play instead.’
John Misto
‘I do not have the power to build a memorial so I wrote a play instead.’
At one level this is the story about the meeting of two female POW survivors, Bridie Cartwright and Sheila Richards, for the first time since the end of the war fifty years previously. The two women had been evacuated from Singapore and had endured together the pain and suffering of war. The play focuses on the re-establishment of their relationship. We observe not only their reunion but their reconciliation. Their story is told in a complex theatrical form that alerts the audience to the fact that this is not a simple narrative. The story unravels as the truths and untruths of the past are revealed. While on the one hand the focus is on the personal truths and lies, these are seen to be part of a much bigger issue: the construction of public accounts of past events. We see the way in which such public accounts obfuscate and conceal, and we see the effects of such obfuscation on individuals—
‘keep smiling’.
The Bridie that we see on stage is in her early 70s. As she recounts the events of the war and interacts with Sheila we learn about her life before the war, her reasons for enlisting and her ways of coping with the war experiences at the time and since the war ended. What strikes us most about her recollections of the painful events of the war is the apparently emotion free way in which she recounts them. Bridie is a complex character who has constructed her own moral stance to deal with the aftershocks of these shocking experiences. The interest for the audience is not only in the ways in which she deals with her painful memories but also in how she deals with the confrontation with the truths about the past in the present.
We come to know Bridie not only in the present but also as she recalls and relives past memories. Bridie’s first moment on stage shows her demonstrating the action of the kowtow—a gesture that in some ways highlights an important aspect of her personality. We see her answering Rick’s questions, in dialogue with Sheila, re enacting past moments and we hear her younger voice in flashback. All that we see about Bridie is also juxtaposed with the ‘reality’ of the situation as depicted in the projected visual and sound images.
ACTIVITIES
ACTIVITIES
Examine the various ways in which aspects of Bridie’s character is revealed
Make a list of key lines which Bridie speaks in the present that indicate her viewpoint of the war.
Identify moments of dramatic action that indicate aspects of Bridie’s character
.
Make a list of quotations that illustrate salient features of Bridie’s character.
Sheila, although resident in Australia since the war, is basically British. We first see her entering the motel room and she is distinguished by the gloves that she carries. Unlike Bridie she is still single. As the play unfolds we learn about her life as a girl in Singapore before the invasion, her evacuation as the Japanese invade and the terrible existence that she endured as a young prisoner-of-war. We are also aware from her initial responses that the experiences have made their mark upon the girl who is now a middle-aged woman.
As the play proceeds, we become aware that Sheila’s relationship with Bridie all those years ago cannot be replicated in the present. We watch as Sheila gradually reaches the point where candour is possible and the relationship between the two women can be reconstructed. We meet Sheila through her monologues, her interactions with Bridie, her answering of Rick’s questions, her enactment of earlier events and through the voiceover flashbacks to wartime incidents.
ACTIVITIES
ACTIVITIES
Examine the various ways in which aspects of Sheila’s character are revealed.
Make a list of key lines which Sheila speaks in the present that indicate her viewpoint on the war.
Compare these lines with lines in the flashbacks involving the younger Sheila.
Identify moments of dramatic action that indicate aspects of Sheila’s character.
Relationships Between The Characters
In one sense this play is about the relationship between these two characters. It demonstrates how two human beings can support each other through the most horrendous events—the horrors of war. It also explores how such events can erode inner peace. They had once shared food, literally taking it out of one mouth and putting it in the other. They had dragged each other to safety. They had crawled on the ground digging graves. They had once been prepared to die together. Both characters are troubled, guilt-ridden and traumatised by what they have endured.
But the play is not simply the celebration of a reunion of two people who have been separated by the passage of time. It is about reconciliation—the restoring of a relationship which had nurtured them both through the horrors. Yet the reunion is not without tension and the play exposes, inter alia, one key reason for this tension: honesty—or the lack thereof. It is only now, years after the event, that the ‘truth’ is able to be revealed and a reconciliation is possible.
John Misto has said that this story is about an ‘unknown holocaust’. An important aspect of the holocaust is the difficulty of presenting the reality—the truth. Atrocities are hidden, and evidence obliterated. As the play draws to its close we realise not only the extent of what the women themselves have kept hidden, but more importantly, that their silence is part of a much larger conspiracy to keep the reality of these events from public notice. It is a masterful stroke to present these stories within the framework of investigative journalism—the interview situation.

The Healing Power Of Truth
Mateship and Resourcefulness
History and Historiography
Revealing Injustice
Mateship and Resourcefulness
History and Historiography
Revealing Injustice
This is a complex play that layers issue over issue in a dramatically intricate pattern. It is important that students are able to visualise the action that is occurring on the stage. This includes not only the action between the two characters and the interactions between the two characters and the interviewer, but also the ‘actions’ of the projected visual and auditory images. The play only exists in this complete picture and it is from this complete picture that the issues, concerns or themes are derived.

Every drama takes its audience on a journey. The ending of the play’s action not only gives a sense of closure and completion, but also usually indicates what for the playwright is of major importance.

Throughout The Shoe-Horn Sonata Bridie and Sheila have uncovered events and emotions they have kept hidden for half a century: Sheila’s desperate gesture of swapping herself for the medicine to save Bridie’s life. Bridie’s constant but hidden terror of the guards, which is shown when she runs from the shop when she is surrounded by the harmless Japanese-speaking tourists.

Up to the time of the play’s action, neither has been able to reveal what has shamed her so deeply. Meeting again eventually allows them to reveal and face the nightmares that have traumatised them since their captivity. They also have to alter some of the attitudes they held when young.

They tell one another the truths they have been suppressing, and then give each other the courage to reveal them to Rick and the world through the television documentary.

The ending is therefore not a ‘false’ upbeat and cheerful scene to leave the audience forgetting the horrors they have learnt about. A ‘sonata’ is a musical piece for two instruments, and during their captivity Bridie and Sheila literally and metaphorically made a musical duo. Now their declarations of friendship and their dancing as the stage darkens shows the audience that they have finally faced, together, the horrors that have given them nightmares. We realise that facing these realities has made them free to live their remaining lives at peace with one another and with themselves.

Anecdotal evidence from the memoirs of Australian prisoners-of-war suggests that they had a higher rate of survival than other nationalities taken by the Japanese. [This is to be a theme of the new Australian television drama, Changi, being produced in 2001 discussed in The Sydney Morning Herald, the guide, Feb.5 to11, 2001] Their strong sense of mateship, which involved constantly looking out for one another, is claimed to be one reason for this.

Another reason given is their ‘can-do’ approach, and their resourcefulness in making the most of whatever they had at hand. They were considered to be more independent and practical than soldiers of other countries, not likely to wait for orders-in fact more likely to challenge authority.

The Shoe-Horn Sonata shows that the Australian nurses and others in camp with them (but not all) also shared these qualities. The play shows that in camp Sheila and Bridie worked together as best mates, and their support for one another was a major reason they survived in circumstances where many didn’t. This involved enormous self-sacrifice on Sheila’s part. Their knowledge of health and best practices to maintain it without any of the resources they were used to also helped them survive.

While the focus of the play appears to be on the two individual characters, it is through their story that we discover an even bigger story—the ways in which official sources construct histories so that truth becomes a central casualty. In one sense the play is about historiography or the writing of history. This is evident in various aspects of the play including the juxtaposition of the ‘factual’ information in the slides and the fictional characters. But it also operates within the stories of the characters themselves moving within the stage space. The hesitation of the women to tell their stories publicly has helped to skew the writing of the history. But we come to understand the ways in which the women have effectively colluded with Japanese, British and Australian officialdom by keeping their own counsel.
It is interesting that now, fifty years after the war, they are telling their stories in an oral medium because, unlike other official war stories, they have not been recorded in writing. It is also significant that in the telling of these stories it is the male interviewer who is seeking the information for another public medium of recording history—one that is as potentially selective as the official government records can be. In both cases it is the stories that are not told—‘the negative information’—that leads to a skewed and untruthful account of events. This is a play about the stories that are not told for various reasons.
Misto has said that one purpose of his play is to show the injustices he believes have been done to the memory of the nurses, and of the thousands of other women and children who suffered with them. His Author’s Note (p 16) makes this clear. Their compensation afterwards was inadequate, and for fifty years no memorial was organised for them. The bombing of ships full of women and children and the shooting of nurses and Australian soldiers, breaking the international rules of war, was in fact what is now called a ‘war crime’.

In particular the evidence given that medicines provided by the International Red Cross lay unused outside the camp boundaries when children as well as women like Sheila were dying inside is a chilling reminder of the inhumanity of war.

The Power Of Art
The Power Of Art
The power of music to lift the prisoners’ spirits is made clear from the title of the play. The women’s amazing resourcefulness in creating an ‘orchestra’ consisting entirely of human voices-and one Shoe-Horn-has become one of the great legends of captivity. Bridie and Sheila create their own sonata, a medley of familiar music, when the choir has been disbanded because of deaths and weakness.

They recall the surprise and delight one Christmas when the Australian men visited and from the outside of the barbed wire fence sang “O, Come All Ye Faithful”, and the women’s choir sang a carol in return.

The power of words is also made clear in the play. The women sing The Captives’ Hymn at the opening of Act Two, but as they tell of their last dreadful months of captivity, they recall the parodies of popular songs they sang in defiance of their captors:

“One day I killed a Jap/Killed a Jap/I hit him on the head/ With a bloody lump of lead...”

What Techniques Are Used By Misto To Bring His Play To Life?
What Techniques Are Used By Misto To Bring His Play To Life?
Images
Music
Music
Humour
Humour
Symbolism
Symbolism
The images selected by Misto play an important role in the play. The images are a reminder to the audience that whilst the characters of Bridie and Sheila are fictional, the events that they describe are very real.
In pairs, go through the scenes that you have been allocated and make a list of all the images used. You will present information about each scene to the class so consider the following questions:
How does the image support/affect the scene?
Is it commenting on what is happening?
Is it ironic?
Is it used for humour?
What effect is Misto trying to achieve?

Lighting
Lighting
Connecting To The Rubric
ACT ONE
ACT TWO
1
7
3
4
6
5
2
11
13
14
12
8
The Interview Introduced
Darkness and the voice – then the first sight we see of Bridie is her in a bow. 
The on-air sign tells us about the public nature of the broadcast. 
The imaginary shoe horn establishes the symbolism of the shoe horn that will 
occur throughout the text. 
The images of the nurses emphasise the hope of the nurses emerging into war. 
Singapore in its glory days before the war shows what kind of place Singapore was, showing why Britain was proud of Singapore. 
The sign “Don’t listen to rumour” demonstrates the attitude of the British rulers.
Images We See...
Images We Visualise...
The zeros flying over Singapore, demonstrating the totality of the war 
The Vyner Brooke, carrying 300 people, emphasising the risk that was taken. 
Watching the city burn 
“Threw their wives and children onto anything that would float”
The Hotel Room Introduced
Motel room, showing the  communal space these two women will have to share. 
Bridie carrying the suitcase with effort reveals her character 
Sheila’s gloves reveals her character. 
Bridie “exploring the bar area” reveals her liking of alcohol. 
Sheila looking at Bridie with “surprising intensity” on p. 26 establishing the relationship through stage directions. 
The suitcase lifting evoking the ordering nature of the Japanese camp. 
Images We See...
Images We Visualise...
“The best view in Melbourne” showing the unfamiliarity with the lifestyle of rich people. 
Comment on how people look on TV, building a bridge of the known to the audience. 
Pulling out pages of the Bible for cigarette papers. Thus Biblical concepts are not as important at this stage.
Bickering to Unity
Interview 2 - The Fall of Singapore
The women  and  children  being  evacuated, showing the  innocence  of the civilians being evacuated. 
Pictures of Singapore underline the words of Sheila 
The Japanese flag showing visually the overwhelming power of the Japanese in this situation. 
Images  of Japanese taking  over  Singapore  underlines the strength  of the Japanese at this point of the play  and underlines the point made in the script about the “fall of the British empire”.
Images We See...
Images We Visualise...
The peaceful nature of the initial journey for Sheila (p. 30) 
The searchlight of the Japanese 
The description of the evacuation (p.31) evoking the frenetic atmosphere of the times. 
Bridie’s  description  (p.33)  of  the  broken  necked  victims  of  life  jackets underlines the poor preparation for evacuation. 
Bridie  and  Sheila  in  the  water,  surviving,  arguing,  singing  begins  the camaraderie theme, as well as their image as bickering friends.  (p.34) 
Shoe horn raised as an important (invisible) object once more. 
“Looking like rubbish” – p. 35 
Interview 2 - The Fall of Singapore
The women  and  children  being  evacuated, showing the  innocence  of the civilians being evacuated. 
Pictures of Singapore underline the words of Sheila 
The Japanese flag showing visually the overwhelming power of the Japanese in this situation. 
Images  of Japanese taking  over  Singapore  underlines the strength  of the Japanese at this point of the play  and underlines the point made in the script about the “fall of the British empire”.
Images We See...
Images We Visualise...
The peaceful nature of the initial journey for Sheila (p. 30) 
The searchlight of the Japanese 
The description of the evacuation (p.31) evoking the frenetic atmosphere of the times. 
Bridie’s  description  (p.33)  of  the  broken  necked  victims  of  life  jackets underlines the poor preparation for evacuation. 
Bridie  and  Sheila  in  the  water,  surviving,  arguing,  singing  begins  the camaraderie theme, as well as their image as bickering friends.  (p.34) 
Shoe horn raised as an important (invisible) object once more. 
“Looking like rubbish” – p. 35 
Mistro also uses excerpts from more than a dozen songs from the period to accompany these images. The use of song and of instrumental music has several purposes. First, it shows in actuality to the audience the soothing and uplifing power of music. Music was a crucial feature of the ‘life support’ system in the camps. It also adds variety and emotional sub-text to many of the plays scenes. It places them also in their historical context. On some occasions it suggests the irony of the situations the two women faced.
When Bridie describes the evacuation and criticises the British, the song ‘Rule Britannia’ is played. This is a very patriotic song which reinforces the ideals of the society within which the British were accustomed to in Singapore. It is also a song that helps us understand the attitude of colonial countries and the superiority that Britain ‘ruled’ over these colonies. Misto uses this song in an attempt to sarcastically convey the pompous naivety of the government that alternately lead to the predicament in which these women found themselves. The irony of the situation is their attitude of superiority placed them in a position of inferiority.

The play exposes a horrible situation - not only of the war and its effects on the women who were caught up in it - but also the ways in which the truth about such atrocities is hidden from the public. Humour comes from not only the way in which the women used the power of the human spirit to laugh in the face of adversity, but also the way the composer
(John Misto)
has juxtaposed moments of remembering comic events with the horrors of the memories of the reality. The light and dark of the play allow the audience to be both horrified and entertained. The comic allows the audience relief from the pain and
encourages them to question the reasons for the horror.
Both verbal and situational humours have been used as a way of toning down the gravity of an event or situation. The more the two women remember the absolute absurdity of their wartime experiences, the more the seriousness and arrogance of war is being mocked.
War is not seen to be an honourable experience; it is portrayed as a gigantic failure of sophisticated behaviour.
Full transcript