John Misto’s award-winning play The Shoe-Horn Sonata is a moving tribute to the Australian nurses held prisoner by the Japanese in the Second World War. In 1942, 65 Australian Army nurses were among the hundreds of thousands of women and children taken prisoner in Singapore. Most of them died over the next three years, but a few survived the horrendous POW camps and this is their story.
Misto did extensive research and vowed to tell the hidden story, the one that governments preferred to forget. Unlike the fallen soldiers from wars, there were no memorials to the nurses or the civilians who were captured and murdered during the Second World War. Misto donated his prize money to their cause and in 1999 at long last a memorial was unveiled.
The Shoe-Horn Sonata is a play for two older women. It’s a memory play and a play about friendship and broken trust. Bridie was an Army Nurse captured by the Japanese. Sheila was a young girl sent out of Singapore by her parents on a boat that was torpedoed in the harbour.
The two characters are Misto’s invention, but you can sense that many parts of the story they tell are similar to what he heard from many of the women he interviewed. In his author’s notes he writes: “Although the characters of Bridie and Sheila are fictional, every incident they describe is true and occurred between 1942 and 1995.”
To stop the play becoming maudlin with reminiscing, Misto gives his two protagonists a burning problem for the present. After rescuing each other time and again and being closer than many of us ever get to be, Bridie and Sheila have not seen each other since the end of the war. During the course of The Shoe-Horn Sonata we gradually find out why.
And the play’s title? The women formed a choir and used Bridie’s shoe-horn as a metronome.
SHEILA: We forgot the Japs – we forgot our hunger – our boils – barbed-wire – everything … Together we made this glorious sound that rose above the camp – above the jungle – above the war – rose and rose and took us with it. Fifty voices set us free.
BRIDIE: Fifty voices and a shoe-horn …
Publisher: Currency Press (1996)
Cast: 2F (and 1M voice over)
For more information on the women prisoners of war, read this article by Hank Nelson in the Journal of the Australian War Memorial.
Tags: Japanese, John Misto, katherine lyall-watson, PoW, prisoners of war, Shoe-Horn Sonata, women, WWII
Shoe Horn Sonata Distinctive Visual Essay example
856 WordsMay 31st, 20134 Pages
Distinctively visual texts use a variety of techniques to convey the experiences during the war. In John Misto’s 1996 play ‘The Shoe-Horn Sonata’ which is about women nurses enduring Japanese POW camps, such distinctive experiences as power and survival are shown through techniques like lighting, projecting image, sound, symbols, dialogue and body language. In Kenneth Slessor’s 1942 poem ‘Beach Burial’ he also comments about survival in war and the power in distinctively visual ways through particular words. He relies upon adjectives, personification and the use of imagery to describe the suffering. In Nick Ut’s photograph from 1973 ‘The Napalm Girl of Trangbang’ which is about the Vietnam war and these…show more content…
In scene 8, sound is used to show the power of the Japanese. Shiela says “and we could hear you scream -even by the fence- and it wasn’t a human sound by them” this imagery and sound is used to show a mental picture of bridie screaming which unsettles the audience. It reveals her deep suffering and the inhumanity of her captors in not helping her. This visually highlights the complete sense of power the Japanese had over both Sheila and Bridie. The distinctive experience of power and survival is shown in Kenneth Slessor’s poem, ‘Beach Burial’ The use of colour imagery and similes of the men’s inscription being ‘as blue as drowned men’s lips’ and “vast number of dead sailors” “the blue lips of the drowned bodies” is disturbing as it vividly paints a picture of their lifelessness in the audiences mind. Colour and death is used in the line “the breath of the wet season has washed their inscriptions”
In the second stanza the distinctive experience of power is present. The use of the technique of imagery and emotive words “to pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows’ tells us that the soldiers were strong, loyal and had enough power within a degree to assist fellow soldiers. The use of personification to create sound “sob and clubbing of the gunfire” This leads the audience to understand what the soldiers were up against without even directly saying it. The imagery visually shows the scene in their