State Rank 1 Mod A :: Shoehorn Sonata

Distinctly visual techniques area able to capture and instils genuine emotional responses in the audience as they come to understand the contexts and events of the compositions. In The Shoe Horn Sonata, John Misto utilises theatrical techniques to depict the ‘forgotten’ history of Australian nurses during WWII. Misto ‘s play through exploring  the experiences of Australian nurses and the response of the Australian government to their plight evokes feelings of guilt and admiration to the event and people in it. Likewise Vincent by Don McLean is an evocative song that powerfully generates visions of Van Gogh’s famous paintings, and laments the loss of such an artist to the uncaring audience of his time. creating the sentiment for the loss of such genius and appreciation for his paintings. + Sentiment and Appreciation. Hence, both authors use their unique visual representations to elevate the contexts under which individuals struggle and prosper, as well as the emotions associated with such personal experiences. As such, both authors employ distinct and unique visual techniques to create emotional rapport with the responder and enhance their understanding of the characters and their personal experiences.

Distinct and unique visual techniques are extensively employed in The Shoe Horn Sonata to place the responder vicariously into the lives of a nurse and a student who are thrust into the war to intimately feel their fear and hopelessness. + FEELS. The fall of Singapore, a pivotal moment in which “The British Empire teetered and fell…” is captured through the projections of “Japanese soldiers,” “The Banzai Flag…” juxtaposed ironically with the singing of “Jerusalem”, a patriotic song of England’s conquests. It creates a paradoxical juxtaposition of hope and despair, whilst also expressing the intense patriotism and faith they had felt for England. The play powerfully captures an unimaginable experience of shame and humiliation at the hands of foreign invaders. Their torturous mistreatment is saliently presented in the backdrop projections of “women… lining up for food; … stick thin, starving, dressed in rags, filthy.” Misto powerfully uses these slides to supplement the context of Bridie and Sheila’s own narrative experience. The dehumanisation of female prisoners is reinforced in the visceral imagery of them having to use the toilet in front of guards, Bridie’s bitter accusation, “They want to humiliate us” forces the responder to visualise the inhumanity and cruelty possessed by the Japanese captors. It is through perceiving the distinctly visual elements the responder is able to gain empathy and admiration for the girls’ fortitude to survive such tragic and inhuman experiences.

Comparatively, McLean also utilises powerful imageries inVincent’ to portray Van Gogh’s emotional detachment from the uncaring world. The artistry of Gogh is best captured through the imagery of a vivid and dark landscape. “Shadows on the hills… Catch the Breeze and the winter chills … the snowy linen land.” The personification of the hills emphasises the moving quality of Gogh’s artworks and the synaesthesia of ‘snowy linen’ captures an almost tactile sensation of the visual. Together they draw the responder into feel the isolation Gogh experienced as an unappreciated artist throughout his life. Furthermore, McLean alludes to Gogh’s body of work, such as his sun flowers. The imagery of “flaming flowers that brightly blaze/ swirling clouds in violet haze” use alliteration and assonance to create a sense of mystical moment, allowing listeners to visualise these famous paintings. Finally, the grave regret for Gogh’s suicide is captured in the metaphorical imagery of “the silver thorn of bloody rose/ lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.” The Christ like allusion of thorns, the loss of innocence in the rose, and the purity of the ‘virgin snow’, all communicate the incredible beauty and the paradoxical torture of Van Gogh’s genius, as well as the feeling of remorse for his early death. As such, ‘Vincent’ is a powerful and provocative song that is built upon an accumulation of distinctively visual imagery to capture complex yet beautiful feelings.

Another core motif in TSHS is the use of light and darkness as it influences the audience’s emotions to Birdie and Sheila’s own experiences. This is particularly salient in the climactic revelation of Sheila’s confession that she “went off” with “Lipstick Larry” to save Bridie. Their confrontation is captured through the provocative dialogue, “Answer me Bridie [Firmly], you can’t tell the truth if you look away…” and the rhetorical answer provided by the lighting, “[Her answer is obvious… the lights slowly fade].” Lighting is a powerful visual technique allows audience to feel the desolation filling Sheila’s heart, and her hopes for Bridie’s acknowledgement of her sacrifice. Furthermore, a mutual rapport is established by both Sheila and Bridie’s confessions. Light in infused with music to express the cathartic joy, “[They dance … a very bright spot light on Bridie’s Shoe-Horn] with […Blue Danube. It is the music of joy and triumph and survival]”. The uplifting notes of Strauss’ composition and the highlighted shoe horn emphasis where all the negative emotions are purged and replaced with a renewed hope for the future. Therefore, Misto cleverly utilises light and darkness to construct distinct visual elements for the audience and thus allow them to sympathise with the characters.

Ultimately, the empathic and philosophical message of McLean’s song, is his desire to both capture the beauty of Gogh’s works, as well as the beauty of his creative mind. Is to explicitly captures the emotions Gogh has for his world which shifts the listener’s perception of Gogh and the contexts he lives in. The closing verses of his song is a meta imagery of Gogh’s works on display in the most famous museums. However, the imagery he uses seems lonely and forlorn, “Portraits hung in empty halls… Frame-less heads on nameless walls…” He laments through this vision of abandonment, that Gogh probably wanted to communicate an intimate and personal emotion through his series of self-portraits. However, for the post modern audience, their perception of Van Gogh are the million-dollar value artworks that are kept for prestige and investment. This is why Mclean emphasises that the portraits have, “Eyes that watch the world and can’t forget…” This personification communicates McLean’s dissapointment that a world that remains apathetic, “they would not listen, perhaps they never will…” indicating truth that unless the responder appreciate Van Gogh’s works for their artistic value alone, they will never appreciate the genius that was lost. Consequently, through using the visual elements McLean instructs the listener to perceive the genius and unniqueness in Gogh and his painting therefore feel for his true values.

Therefore, distinctly visual representations are essential tools to emotionally and spiritually connect the responders with the characters. Both texts effectively demonstrate their power in expressing the complexity and uniqueness of the character’s experiences. It is because of these visual techniques, a far more meaningful and profound reflection is made possible. The employment of such distinct visuals evokes the responder to both emotional and physically responds to the characters and the events.


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