The Shoe-Horn Sonata by John Misto has five main themes or concerns. They are; History and Memory, Power and Control, Heroism and Relationships and War and Atrocities. John Misto explores all these ideas while telling the story of Bridie and Shelia's reunion fifty years after they last saw each other.
The play is about the histories of the women and the nurses that were captive of the Japanese during World War Two; their individual histories and joint suffering. The stories of these women were never made official and there is no government recognition of their plight and few, if any, official records. These painful memories are not part of any official' history and this is made clear in the play. "The British didn't want anyone to know about us. They'd have lost prestige if people found out how women of the Empire had lived in the war. So for the sake for King and Country, they burned out diaries. Every last one." Shelia, Scene Thirteen.
Misto makes it clear in the course of the play that the memories of the women are accurate. The oral stories from these fictional characters have juxtaposed over them the factual images to confirm and extrapolate the stories of the women. The visual images of the thin, starving people are very strong and clear to an audience, for example, Scene Seven opens with a photo of some women POW's "emaciated, haggard and impoverished". This is shown while Bridie explains how thin Sheila and herself got while at the Japanese camps, "The lightest I got was exactly five stone
" The visual images show exactly what the women are talking about and add to the sense of theatre around the play. They heighten the audience's understanding of the enormity of the issue.
There is use of background sounds throughout the play, for example in Scene Five when Bridie explains what happened on Radji Beach on Banka Island there is "sounds of machine gun fire and cries of women on the soundtrack". The dues ex machine effect of these amplified...
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