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The Shoehorn Sonata - Revision

An overview of the unit of work 'Distinctively Visual'

Leonie Fowler

on 23 February 2016

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Transcript of The Shoehorn Sonata - Revision

By John Misto
The Shoe-horn Sonata
Distinctively: an aspect that is made to stand out

Visual: relating to the sense of sight
What does it mean?
More detail....
In their responding and composing students explore the ways the images we see and/or visualise in texts are created. Students consider how the forms and language of different texts create these images, affect interpretation and shape meaning. Students examine one prescribed text, in addition to other texts providing examples of the distinctively visual.
You are asked to look at a text and tell us how the author has created a visually stimulating text.

You need to include:
- What information they tell the audience and how?
- What information they tell those presenting their text
- How this information helps create a different or enhance image for the audience.
In English...
The Story line and its impact
The Play
How does Misto create them?
The Characters
What are they?

How do they add to the visual story Misto is creating?

What does Misto really want us to get out of this play?
The Themes
Key Scenes
What are they?

Are they obvious to the audience? Why did Misto choose to present them this way?

How do they add to the visual imagery the the audiences experience due to the?
Techniques Misto uses in his play...
John Misto’s play, The Shoe-Horn Sonata, was inspired by the real-life experiences of Australian nurses taken prisoner by the Japanese Army after the fall of Singapore in l942, during World War 2.

From l942 to the end of the war in August 1945, they lived in primitive, at times desperate conditions. Only 24 out of an original 65 were eventually brought back to Australia in October, l945. Many had drowned or been shot dead as they were being evacuated from Singapore when the Japanese forces captured it. Others died of malnutrition and illness in the prison camps. Supplies sent to them by the Red Cross, including food and necessary medicines, were almost always withheld by their captors.

The writer, John Misto, wanted to make Australians aware of the heroism of these nurses. He believed that it was disgraceful that, fifty years after that war had ended, Australia had still not set up any memorial to its army nurses, even though many of the Australian troops owed their lives to their care. Misto handed over all the prize money he won with this play in l995 to the fund to build such a memorial.
How do we present this information in our essay?
In TSHS, John Misto incorporates distinctively visual elements to express to the audience the experiences of Bridie and Sheila in WWII POW camps.
The combination of auditory and visual dramatic devices (music, lighting, sound and slides) is more fully appreciated in a close analysis of Act One, Scene Three. This scene occurs in the television studio where Bridie and Sheila reminisce about their meeting and the horror of their ship being sunk by the Japanese. The ‘on-air’ sign is a visual symbol that an ‘official’ version of history is about to occur. The scene opens with the nostalgic sounds of the 1940s song ‘Something to Remember You By’ which is then juxtaposed with the scene’s events.

Rick is heard in voice-over, unseen yet directing the women’s responses towards the evacuation of Singapore. As Sheila talks of the evacuation, slides show images of happy women and children, establishing the wider world of the play (as opposed to just Sheila and Bridie). Sheila is illuminated by a beam of light that reinforces the reality of the event and creates a visual connection between the past and present. Sheila sings ‘Jerusalem’, a rousing British hymn. Irony is created when this is sung in combination with visual slides depicting the fall of Singapore.
Key Scene Analysis - Act One Scene Three
What images do we see?

How does the author make us see the image?

Do we physically see them or are they imagined?

What are we (the audience) prompted but not led to visualise?
What do we see that is not directly there in front of us?

How does the author make us see what he wants us to see?

What techniques do they use to achieve this?
Distinctly Visual
Questions to ask!
Stage blocking and movement: where do the characters position themselves on the stage and how do they move?
Dramatic Techniques
Special effects: this broad category especially refers to technical devises used for effect. Eg. Slide shows, moterised movements, hologram effects etc…Why have theses been used?
Dramatic Techniques
Sound: Music and sound effects. Why are these chosen, how are they deliver and how do they impact the image being created for us
Dramatic Techniques
Character costuming: does it change as the play progresses? How is the colour, style and texture used?
Dramatic Techniques
Stage type: what effect does this have on the impact of the message?
Dramatic Techniques
Distinctly Visual
Symbols and motifs: how is repetition of images/idea used to maximise the play’s effect?
Dramatic Techniques
Line delivery: tone, pace, volume, pausing, intonation etc
Dramatic Techniques
Conflict: the action, man Vs man, man Vs nature and or man Vs himself
Dramatic Techniques
Character gestures and mannerism: how does the character do to represent their personality and thematic purpose?
Dramatic Techniques
Lighting: how is the shadow and illuminations used to present ideas?
Dramatic Techniques
Setting: the set, what style is it and why?
Dramatic Techniques
What do we look at?
(feelings, deepen understanding and
(Textual Features)
Conflict: the action, man Vs man, man Vs nature and or man Vs himself
Symbols and motifs: how is repetition of images/idea used to maximise the play’s effect?
Stage type: what effect does this have on the impact of the message?
Stage blocking and movement: where do the characters position themselves on the stage and how do they move?
Special effects: this broad category especially refers to technical devises used for effect. Eg. Slide shows, moterised movements, hologram effects etc…Why have theses been used?
Line delivery: tone, pace, volume, pausing, intonation etc
Sound: Music and sound effects. Why are these chosen, how are they deliver and how do they impact the image being created for us
Character gestures and mannerism: how does the character do to represent their personality and thematic purpose?
Lighting: how is the shadow and illuminations used to present ideas?
Character costuming: does it change as the play progresses? How is the colour, style and texture used?
Setting: the set, what style is it and why?
Dramatic Techniques
Within the play TSHS, by John Misto we are exposed to the characters Bridie and Shelia as they retell thier past experiences as POW's during WWII.
Student responses
Within Act One Scene Two, Misto has allowed us to gain a greater understanding of the characters through the use of stage directions and body language used. Sheila is presented with as an individual who wears gloves and has correct posture. From this we can draw the conclusion, as the audience, that she is of British origins. Misto has used these same directions to present Bridie as a laid back, less formal personal, with Aussie colloquial language to represent her Australian heritage.
Within TSHS, it is identifiable by responders that people and country of origin is provided using the techniques of stage and character directions. These directions are focused on Shellia and Bridie, who the responder is able to identify their background, and country of origin, through Misto directions of what costume and posture they have been directed to wear and present. We are shown Bridie,the Australian, wearing older, darker clothing which is ill fitted. She is also represented as a taller and wider character which implies that she doesn't look after herself or doesn't care what she looks like, unlike the character Shelia. Shiela, through her visual representation, is presented to us as British. We recognise this through her clothing and make up etc. Misto has created Shelia to be trim and immaculately dressed to promote her heritage through the technique of these distinctly visual elements.
Student Responses
The play The Shoe Horn Sonata, written by John Misto is based on the survival of women Prisoner Of War (POW). The fictional portrayal of the two main characters, Bridie and Sheila serves as a memorial to those who suffered and died through the hardship of living in a POW camp ,in doing so incorporating many elements which are distinctively visual to Misto’s play.
The theme of conflict is firstly revealed through Bridie and Shiela’s war experiences, but Misto has also manipulated conflict so that it is revealed in other mediums within the play. Conflict is shown through the stage directions, topic choice and the symbolism of the suitcase within Act 1 Scene 2, revealing Bridie and Sheila’s initial reunion
. Misto creates the characters thought there appearance which has been dictated by their costuming. The character Sheila is willing to carrying a pair of gloves, and from this and her attitude to the porter, we, as the audience, are made aware of her British origins. Bridie, on the other hand, is obviously more causal and laid back fitting the stereotypical larrikin characteristics of an Australian. The characterization of both the characters are important as their actions and morals are dictated thought their country of origin. Through this use of costuming Misto allows us, the audience to understand the intarsias that exist between the two characters , without using a considerable amount of time in the play, to telling us directly.
Conflict is shown through the stage directions, topic choice and the symbolism of the suitcase within Act 1 Scene 2, revealing Bridie and Sheila’s initial reunion.
The lighting effect is directed by Misto to fade gradually, revealing Bridie and Sheila, who both pause with no dialogue. The stage direction, in the opening lines of the scene, of the ‘obvious tension’ is created by the lack of dialogue and the dethatched body language, suggesting the two are very much removed from one another after not maintaining contact post war. Part of the puzzle for the audience is in establishing whether this tension is something that exists in the present, or whether its origins go back into the past or the reason behind the conflict. This is symbolized through the suitcase that Shiela is attempting to lift, and Bridie eventually coming to her assistance. This is a metaphor for their current relationship about to be played out in their dialogue. Until the dialogue starts and reveals a sense of ambivalence in their reunion, we learn that Bridie accuses Shelia of deliberately not talking to her for fifty years since they have seen each other. Through the tone of the dialogue and topic we can deduct, as the audience, that Bridie feels betrayed and that Shelia feels ashamed of a past action that has lead them to this point in time.
Visuals are used, throughout the Shoehorn Sonata, to reinforce the ideas being presented, and to convey to the audience a sense of reality. The extensive use of photographs helps to reinforce the idea that while the play is fiction, it is based on real historical events, and describes the actual experiences of many people. Misto portrays conflict in Act 1 Scene 3, where he yet again established the two characters Bridie and Sheila physically, thought the battle of countries in World War II. Bride and Sheila find themselves in a fight for survival between the Japanese having been betrayed by the British Government. The fear confronted by these two women, in the play, are represented through the use of the vivid memories they have of ruthless treatment they underwent as a result of the warring countries. The frightening experiences, endured during the women’s imprisonment, are visualized within this scene, which Rick documents through Sheila’s perspective and is accompanied with the projections of images, validating Sheila’s memories, from the event itself. As we see slides of ships burning in Singapore Harbor, the Japanese invasion and the emaciation of the prisoners of war, we cannot help but be struck by the reality of these situations and the horror of those who endured them.
At the start of the scene the symbol ‘On-Air’ is revealed to us, and the sound of the soundtrack, “Something to Remember You By” is heard. Misto has joined these two elements, the visual and audio, to create a nostalgic mood of the 1940’s giving the audience a visually moving experience when they listening to the songs lyrics.
It also indicates, to the audience, that someone important is about to be introduced. By highlighting the ‘On-Air’ sign, as a dramatic device, Misto gives the audience the knowledge that Bridie and Sheila memories are being recorded, for future Television release. The device is used throughout the rest of the play as a visual reminder for the audience, and a prompt, for the revealing of conflicting personal memories they express to us. The device is used throughout the rest of the play as a visual reminder for the audience, and a prompt, for the revealing of conflicting personal memories they express to us. Misto’s use of imposing lightning serve as a major element to this scene, as it collaborates with the stage directions of the characters, to produce an atmosphere engulfing the audience’s perceptions ‘Sheila stands, fixed by a very, very bright spotlight’ portrays her vulnerability and the threatening of her safety. It also creates a sense of flash backs, as it visually reinforces the dialogue through the imagery of, ‘The Japanese had found our ships and fixed a search light on it’. We are then moved to the Bridie and Sheila’s first meeting where the song ‘Jerusalem’ is heard. Misto has deliberately emphasized the song lyrics words ‘I will not cease from mental fight’ to reinforce the imagery of their resilience and determination to survive. This song is also used by Misto to reveal Sheila’s patriotism, and therefore assists in creating another layer to her characters personality. Finally, Misto adds the sound effect of ‘distant sound of lapping waves’ creating a realistic representation of the scene as the distinct sound aids the audience in building their ‘image’ of the scene in their head and therefore the experience the women went through.
Conflicting memories are portrayed thought-out the play, but is strongly represented in the final scene (Scene 8) of Act 1 in which Misto explores the vivid memories of Bride and Sheila. Misto has accomplished this through the changing perception, which is enhanced by the different point of view that the two characters have on the same event. Through out the scene the audience learn the story of Bridie’s illness with cerebral malaria, in which she was on the brink of death, due to the severity of infection. As a reminder of the resilient relationship that the two POW’s have, Sheila couldn’t let Bridie suffer any longer and had to find a way to quickly get quinine tablets to heal the degrading health of her companion. The revealing actions that Sheila takes in order to keep Bridie alive, wasn’t exactly the truth that Bridie was told after successfully getting the medication. This leads to the conflict emotions in which a memory that Sheila has concealed for over fifty years, is brought back to the surface in the motel room.
Misto has used distinctively visual techniques within the scene to show the hardship and sacrifice that Sheila and Bridie surpassed. Inside the motel room the audience is exposed to the high tension, yet again, that the two characters have as Bridie is in desperate need of answers to the dropping hints that Sheila is conveying as they discuss a part of their life that scared them forever ( bullet). The technique of dialogue within the scene “Don’t! I don’t want to hear this!” illustrates the conflicting shock that Bridie is experiencing as she is in disbelief “No… no…” due to the fact the Sheila has hidden the daunting truth from her. It is while they are unpacking that they begin revealing parts of their lives to each other. The symbolism of the suitcase, which is, imposed of a coffin in the minds of the characters outline the harsh experiences of the past they have endured and creates a shocking image for the audience. As they both lift the suitcase into to the bed, a moment of significance, shifts the characters into a war situation of lifting a coffin upward. The dialogue, overcomes the conflict as they use teamwork and past strength to heave the object in the rhythm of Japanese counting ‘“Ichi...Ni..San...”, as the busting celebration ‘Ya-ta !!!’Sealing the reunion of friendship and has a captivating bubbling of emotions felt by the audience. The juxtaposition between the two elderly ladies and their experience causes the audience to feel uncomfortable however this is diffused with the humour of celebration.
The juxtaposition of factual pictures, of the war projected to the rear of the stage, the experiences of the characters through dialogue and flash-backs allow the audience a greater empathy to those who suffered and become more intrigued about the history element of the play they are responding to. Realistic elements such as stage directions, characterise so that a greatened level of empathy and connections are made between characters and the audience “Bridie tries to straighten up, but her back is a little sore from the demonstration” through this her age is established and we infer that she is resilient and has had a tough life. The audiences reacts positively to this element, of the text, and further appreciate the context and meanings present in the play, as it effectively challenges the perceptions we have on the relationships we have between the two characters.
The downloaded is an obvious example of conflict. It is taken from the video game 'Conflict 2'. This is from a war zone and is a great example of conflict lighting. The dark lighting and colours affect the atmosphere just as mush as the shadows in the first image.
These two images have many things in common and therefore they are both projecting conflict. Both creators of these images were trying to recreate conflict.
These images are a mixture of light and dark areas. The lighting focuses the viewers attention on the important areas. Also the contrast of the light and dark colours create an atmosphere and alter the mood of the viewers. The harsh spotlight in the snapshot from the play, casts shadows on everything else on the set, which creates a negative atmosphere. The contrasted light also creates conflict in the mind. The single light and the shadows it creates
The Shoe-Horn Sonata,
Act One Scene One
Body Language
Body language is a universal language that anyone and everyone can understand. The simple movements of the body or its current position can effect our whole perception. The body language that describes conflict is hard and ready and seems as if it is about to attack or recoil.
Background Images
The background image in this snapshot is of people being forced to practice the Kowtow. This is what Bridie is being forced to remember. It creates a validity towards what she is saying. It was a tribute to the people who imprisoned her, but it also creates a depressing atmosphere for the dialogue.
The photo is black and white and contains men wearing ragged clothes from mid 20Th century, This validates what Bridie is saying and demonstrates the harshness of her reality. It shows what Bridie and Sheila are trying to distance themselves from. With this connection also comes the direct connection to war and fighting and therefore conflict.
When we think of conflict we think of sharp, hard, action and jagged edges. The body language in the first picture is of Bridie and represents a hard and sharp persona. Her back is straight and her shoulders are flat. The sharp movements of her hands represent conflict as she is holding them together as if she is trying to hold herself together mentally. Misto wants to project a woman who is strong yet effected by the war, and through that he expresses conflict.
Misto has dictated the stage direction body language so that the actors must reveal to each other and the audience conflict. He changes the body language to suite the topic of conversation between the two women.
He uses stage directions, such as Peeved, muttering and disapprovingly to create specific personas for the women.
The picture to the right has the body language of people bracing themselves ready for conflict. They look tense and at attention. They too project a sharp persona similar to Bridie's body and hand position. The body language is about preparing for conflict while Bridie's is about remembering and moving on from conflict.
At the time this was published, people were still obsessed with the war and it was still considered recent past. Misto used these images to make the play interesting and realistic and to shock and engage the audience.
The lighting has been specifically placed by Misto directly at her face so that it would show Bridies emotions as she recounts her experiences.
Picture 1
Take a good look at these two pictures before reading the information.
Body Language
Background Images
The lighting in this snapshot is not only produced by the lights but also by the background. Misto uses the dark colours that are behind them to create a negative atmosphere towards the two sides of the women's argument. The two different backgrounds separate the two women and represent two sides of the argument.
The soft lighting throws shadows over the two women. This makes them look more sincere and therefore makes it more realistic.
The photo to the right is of an office argument between a man and a woman. The lighting is similar to that in the snapshot because the colour of their clothes contrasts to the background causes the illusion of conflict. They both have similar threatening hand gestures. Misto has tried to recreate this tension and succeeded.
The body language is obvious when it comes to conflict. The threatening gesture Bridie has with her single finger is the first obvious sign. Her poised stance with her straight back and her flat shoulders as she is leaning towards Sheila is also threatening. The eye contact between them with wide eyes makes it seem serious. Misto wanted to create and project an argument vocally and visually.
Misto always has images running in the background. His choice of images can effect the whole atmosphere of the play. When there is conflict such as in this snapshot the colours in the photo are dark and ominous. The photos would destroy the whole effect if they were bright and contained happy pictures. This picture, like all the others were specially choreographed into this exact moment to execute the exact effect that Misto wanted at that exact time. The picture was chosen to enhance the feelings created by the conflict with its dark colours and depressing branches.
The picture in the background is of a tree, but the colours are dark and depressing which sets the mood for the two friends arguing.
The body language in the second picture is similar. The Threatening gesture with the hand and he wide eye contact. Also the leaning forward and flat shoulders are there. Even the way the woman acts is similar to that of Sheila. The creator, like Misto, obviously had conflict in mind whilst trying to create this image.
If the body language was different the whole integrity of the argument would be compromised. Misto needed to control the body language because then he can produce the exact effect that he wants.
The lighting in this picture is similar to the first picture form the play. Misto specifically describes it as "a very, very bright spotlight" in his stage directions. This gives the audience a sample of her experience and also makes her story realistic and valid.
Misto leaves the rest of the stage black so the audience can focus on her and to create a negative "alone", "night" effect.
The conflict in this snapshot is created by the harshness of the "very, very bright" spotlight in contrast to the rest of the dark stage. The soft light that is also on her make the darkness a little more bearable but that also makes the audience curious as to what is going to happen next.
Body language
The body language used in this snap shot is defensive and the exact opposite to conflict. Her hunched back, face down and arms close to her body makes her look like she is trying to protect herself by crawling into a ball. This is a signal in response to violence which is a product of conflict. Our mind instantly makes this connection. Misto uses this to project to the audience how scared she was for her life and to show the torment that she is still going through. The conflict she experienced is shown by the lighting and all other visual techniques but the body language shows us the conflict that she is experiencing in her memories.
Bridie and Sheila’s body language shows that they are distant and not connected. The fact that the background’s behind the characters are coloured differently also emphasizes the distance between the two characters and represents that they have different views on particular topic’s. The body language of Sheila’s hands on her hips and Bridie’s pointing finger represent a “not-backing-down” sort of attitude.
The facial expressions on both the characters of Bridie and Sheila are ones which are stern, slightly angry and harsh towards each other. This shows that the characters must be having conflicting views about something and that they are having a disagreement.
This part of the play shows tension between Bridie and Sheila as they are only starting to get used to each other again. Stage directions which tell the actor how to act, speak and look (such as “almost casually-but not quite,” “annoyed” and ‘taking charge-as usual”) help to show how the body language and tone towards each of the characters is meant to be; it also helps add to the tension between the two characters. It could have been set out so that the characters just speak to each other, but with added directions the tension/conflict is able to be portrayed more clearly.
A part in the play which revolves around the sub-theme of “Bridie and Sheila’s Conflict Between Each Other” and which this picture represents, is Act One, Scene 2, Page 26, Lines 6-24
There is a lot of conflict throughout the play which revolves around Bridie and Sheila arguing when they are trying to work on their reconciliation.
This picture shows facial expressions and body language which helps create a distance between the two characters and shows that there is a conflict happening which has caused tension between them.
How do the visual features of the image emphasize the theme/issue?
The theme of “Conflict” is able to be broken down into many other sub-themes. For this picture the sub theme is “Bridie and Sheila’s Conflict Between Each Other.”
What theme/issue from the “Shoe Horn Sonata” does this image represent?
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