Willy Russell is the playwright of “Shirley Valentine”. Shirley is a disheartened and lonesome middle-aged women going through a period of slow awakening, and along the way having to look after her rather insular and unappreciative husband. We see how people around Shirley treated her differently. Russell uses various dramatic devices, such as flashbacks, dramatic monologue and voiceover. These devices help us to encourage the audience to feel sympathy for Shirley.
Willy Russell, an acknowledged playwright, has written several plays, one of them is “Shirley Valentine”. He was born in Liverpool, which is the same place where Shirley is lived. Willy Russell left school at the age of 15, which gives him an idea of life without educational qualifications. Throughout six years of his career he was the owner of a hair salon, which tremendously influenced the play; For instance, he was constantly around ‘working class women’, which gave him a natural instinct of how these ladies were day in day out and how would they feel working in this condition. Therefore, Russell’s past experiences of him growing up in a feminine household has influenced this play by being the basis of Shirley’s aspects on life.
Unfortunately, he only managed to obtain one O level in English. This demonstrated that he had lack of education, which is the same as Shirley Valentine. Also, he came from a working class background, which relates to Shirley that she was also a working class woman. Furthermore, Russell always dreamed of being a writer although he went into hairdressing. This is also another links to Shirley due to the fact that she always dreamed of changing her miserable and monotonous life.
It furthermore deals with domestic issues mainly, and is set in a working class environment and ‘Shirley Valentine’ certainly reflects this. Russell satirises feminism in the play by introducing Shirley’s best friend Jane who believes in feminism, only because of her past experiences with her husband. Yet, Jane proves to be a hypocrite as she flirts with the first man she meets on the flight to Greece and it is Shirley who becomes self-sufficient and a positive role model for women. The reason being is that she has devoted most of her life to her husband and kids; yet, she is tired with her life so she wants to start a new life.
Moreover, there is another thing that links to the screenplay, which is Liverpool. The play is made in Liverpool; therefore, the setting will be very similar to Liverpool. In the early 1980s unemployment rates in Liverpool were among the highest in the UK. This is linked to the screenplay where Shirley cannot find a job, as she left school without education qualification. The only job she could do is to become a housewife where she has to do a lot of boring housework such as hoovering, cleaning. Liverpool is also a place where consumerism can be found. Consumerism can be found in a particular place, such as wine bar. This links to the screenplay, as one of the flashbacks takes place in a wine bar where young Shirley was having a conversation with her friends. This is supported by the title, which says “Interior lounge bar-public house-night”.
This suggests that there is wine bars opened everywhere at the time when Shirley was about thirty years old, as there are a lot of public houses in Liverpool at that time. This also shows that Shirley was enjoying her life before becoming as a housewife due to the fact that she is used to the society. However, Shirley turns out to be a different person ten years later. The flashback when Millandra, Sharon Louise and Shirley were in the wine bar shows that Shirley is out of her social life. When Millandra demanded everyone to drink wine, Shirley immediately replied back by saying “But I like rum and coke.” This suggests that she doesn’t go out, as she didn’t get updated to the social. This makes us feel sympathy for Shirley, as her life has changed entirely after she has married Joe.
The title sequence and opening scenes imply what an unvaried life Shirley has. It depicts cartoon pictures of Shirley doing domestic chores of a stereotypical woman’s life. Willy Russell has used monotonous dark featureless sketches suggest that she does the same dull routine everyday. This indicates that Shirley’s life is tiresome and humdrum. The sketches support this where Shirley Valentine is doing the gardening, hanging up the washing and washing up the dishes. The colours chosen by Russell portray a disconsolate atmosphere by the use of dull blue and white. This selection of colours tells us the mood of the cartoon is one of depression, it tells us the cartoon is meant to be gloomy and depressing.
Willy Russell has used blue in a dreary way, expressing the emotion of unhappiness and boredom, as blue is an example of a colour that combined with emotion. During these images a depressing and sad soundtrack, which creates a calm, lonely mood, overlies on the pictures. Some of the lyrics may suggest that Shirley has lost herself and speaks about losing your identity. The lyrics, which say “The girl that use to be me”, “The girl that used to be Free”, implies that Shirley is isolated and it relates to her where she’s used to be happy and free when she was young. The combined effect of these devices introduces to the key themes of the play and creates a suitable depressing and hopeless atmosphere to compliment the mood of the opening section.
The editing is exploited in the slow length and pace of the music. The editing moves slowly. This suggests the play is based on a sad story. The last sketch of drawing where there is a street dissolves into the reality. The use of graphic gives the opening of the story, where Shirley arriving home with the shopping into a small terraced house. She walks into the kitchen and begins to talk to the wall by saying “Hello, Walls”. This immediately suggests that Shirley seems trapped and lonely. We are lead to believe this because she has no one to talk to and share her feelings with, other than a wall.
Russell’s uses of flashbacks are imperative towards our understanding of Shirley’s lifestyle. The reason being is that flashback is a literary or cinematic device whereby an earlier event is inserted into the normal chronological order of a narrative. Also, it can remind the audience of what had happen in the film. The main purpose of it is to keep us updated to the story. We see Shirley, discontented and infuriated with her present and conjugal life. The flashback when Shirley was having a bath with Joe illustrates that Joe and Shirley once were deeply in love with each other. As Joe says “I love you… Shirley Valentine” followed by ‘she puts her head against his’ this implies undoubtedly that they both naturally got on with each other. . Furthermore, Joe says ‘you’re a nutcase, you are. I love you… Shirley Valentine’. This portrays that they were young and free they knew how to have fun and Shirley was not isolated. However, the quote, which says, “he used to love me because I was a nutcase. Now he just thinks I am a nutcase.” This suggests that their relationship has changed; Joe actually thinks Shirley is not attractive any more. This makes us feel sympathy for Shirley because she would be happier if she has married with another man.
The use of flashbacks enables us to understand the situation Shirley is in, furthermore allowing us to see how she is feeling. As Shirley quotes “and even though her name was changed to Shirley Bradshaw she was still Shirley Valentine” this communicates to us that she feels that she has fragment and lost her identity. The flashback to her school days demonstrates how the school has a low expectation of her. This is supported by the phrase, which is said by the headmistress. It says “Oh Shirley, do put your hand down. You couldn’t possibly know the answer”. This shows that the Headmistress thought that Shirley lacked the intelligent to answer the question with the correct answer. This also gives the audience an insight into why Shirley turned out to be a lonely woman. The reason being is that no one was ever there to encourage her; instead her head mistress put her down. This gains the audience’s sympathy because the headmistress treats Shirley differently from others when she should treats everyone equally and fairly. Since, this gave a thought to Shirley that what is the point of doing so hard in school when the school doesn’t even care about you. Willy Russell demonstrates this process when he shows young Shirley says ‘miss it was the wheel! Mans most important invention was the wheel’. The headmistress bursts out with rage; pointing a shacking finger at her saying ‘Somebody must have told you!’ This shows that no one really believed in Shirley, as they thought that she came from a lower class, therefore, she will not know anything. These uses of flashbacks are fundamental towards our understanding of Shirley’s relationship with Joe, They also encourage us to think about Shirley’s past, and help the audience to see how she has changed during the course of the play.
Monologue is one of the techniques, which can link to “Kitchen Sink Drama”. The reason being is that monologues are mostly take place in the kitchen where Shirley can tell the audience her feeling and to make them feel sympathy for her. “Kitchen Sink Drama” is a literary tradition that influences this play in a variety of different ways. “Kitchen Sink Drama” is an English culture movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It features a character that has a melancholy relationship, and has to strive to find unfulfilled dream. For example, Shirley is one of these characters. She was trying to change a new life, but Joe were in her way.
Russell’s use of dramatic monologue creates a trusting relationship with the audience, which allows us to sympathise with Shirley. In addition to this Shirley delivers her lines straight to the camera and this again helps the audience to empathise with her feelings as if we have insight into her private thoughts and feelings. This is supported by the phrase, which says “Well what’s wrong with that”. “Why do we get all this life if we don’t ever use it?” this makes us feel that Shirley is asking us that question as well as herself. It makes us wonder about this and feel sympathy for her. “That’s where Shirley Valentine disappeared to. She got lost in all this unused life.” This quote lets us know how she feels lost. It makes us realise how hopeless Shirley feels. Another monologue such as “It’s lovely that. It’s not too dry …I’d like to drink a glass of wine …and watchin’ the sun go down”. This suggests that happiness time had past and miserable is present. The quote suggests this because when the sun was rising up, it gives people an idea that they will have a nice and bright new day, as the sun gives out heat and light, which lightened up the dull and monotonous sky. Also, it makes people feel warmer and gives them relief, as they thought that someone are watching them and will help them out if they are stuck. Also, bright colour brings up the idea of hope and successful, such as orange. It is a colour associated with the moods, such as red can represent anger. Furthermore, by this quote we can tell that Shirley wants to be alone, admiring the sunset, having a sip of wine with nothing distracts her, as she got very annoy with the life she has. This makes us feel sympathy for her, as she never has a chance to take a break, whereas, her husband can take a relaxing and light-hearted whenever he doesn’t need to go to work. Moreover, Russell uses List Of Three in the quote, which says ” the week or the month or the year”. By this quote, it is grouping ideas together in three, which is one of the powerful language techniques in making her drastic change apparent.
The similarities between “Shirley Valentine” and “Kitchen Sink Drama” are that the main character is not appreciated with the relationship and has to find her happiness. The difference is the end of the “Shirley Valentine”, is that Shirley has a happy conclusion and her dream had turn into reality.
Throughout the play, voiceover is used. Voiceover gives Shirley’s version of events and helps us to keep update. “Shirley (VO): Jane divorced her husband…found him in be with the milkman …” This is more informative because she tells us why Jane became a feminist. This also helps us feel involved in Shirley’s life. Voiceover can also adds Shirley’s point of view in the present to the past. This creates the difference of how Shirley was feeling then and how she is feeling now. This is confirmed by the quote which says “young Shirley: I hate the world. I hate everything.” Another voiceover such as “Shirley (VO): but I didn’t really hate anything. The only thing I hated was me.” By both of the quotes, we can tell that Shirley has no confidence now, as she blames herself for everything, whereas, she has a lot of confidence when she was younger. Also, it makes us feel sympathy for Shirley, as we can see a bright young girl who has vast amounts of self-belief and ability within her, gradually are diminishing away from her very eyes.
We can see how people around Shirley treat her differently throughout the play. The treatment Shirley receives from Joe is absolutely disgraceful. The reason being is that he treats Shirley as a slave. This is supported by the phrase, which says “I get my tea at six o’clock and it’s near ten past. What’s going on?” This insinuates that Joe is ordering Shirley to prepare the supper immediately, but he doesn’t seemed to help, as Shirley is very busy at that moment. This tells us that it acts as a routine that Joe has to have dinner at exactly six o’clock, no earlier or later.
Whereas, Costas treats Shirley in the opposite way as how Joe treats her. Costas tended to be nice and supportive to Shirley. “…these marks, show that, eh, you survive. Don’t try to hide these lines. They are the marks of life.” This indicates that Costas is giving Shirley confidence where Shirley lacked it. This is the main reason why Shirley has fell in love with him.
Another person is Jane whom treats Shirley the same way as Costas. Jane treats Shirley as a sister, as she cares about her by paying attention on Shirley. “…you do want to go abroad- you’ve said so on many occasions. And now you can. That’s your prerogative.” This phrase shows us that Jane actually memorises what Shirley has said, which is a piece of evidence that she cares about Shirley. Also, by this phrase, Jane is supporting her to go abroad which Shirley wanted the most, but she worries about Joe and whether or not he can be able to look after himself. Jane can be very supportive and caring, whereas, she can also be very selfish.
This is because she left Shirley behind by herself whilst she going out with a man on the day when they arrived in Greece. This is supported by the phrase, which says “Oh-Shirley! -can you forgive me? I’ve been completely selfish…” Jane is trying to ask Shirley for forgiveness for being so selfish yesterday. This makes us feel sympathy for Shirley, as she treats Jane as a real truthful friend, as the first thing she actually concerned is Jane. This is supported by the phrase, which says, “I don’t want you to give another thought to me…Give his olives a good pressin!” This tells us that she cares more about Jane than herself, as she has to be alone by herself while Jane enjoying herself. However, Jane actually cares more about herself than Shirley.
In conclusion, Shirley has escaped form her miserable, monotonous and sorrowful life and starts to entering a new, colourful and cheerful life. The techniques used in this play have enhanced our understanding of Shirley to a great deal. They have allowed the audience to feel sympathy for Shirley therefore boosted the audience’s knowledge of the play.