The screenplay “Shirley Valentine” is written by Willy Russell and is set in Liverpool and Greece. It tells the story of a middle aged women who is sadly reflecting on her life as the bored and fed up housewife, and the various opportunities she let go when she was growing up as a teenager in Liverpool. It is mainly about how Shirley feels about her life and how she feels about her married life, how it is so boring and monotonous. We see in flashbacks what her life was like before marriage and at the start of marriage. She had a dream to travel around the world as an airhostess and so she regrets giving up her education. Later as she gets the bravery she takes her chance to go to Greece and she builds up her self-esteem. She takes the opportunity to go and change her life. In this essay I’m going to write about how Shirley changes in coarse of play and how the structure shows the importance of these changes.
Shirley was a very lonely women, I noticed that as soon as I read the first page… “Hello wall”, this showed me that she didn’t have any one around her to talk to or no one to turn to; Shirley was alone. I think that was an important line to start the play with because it gave me a hint about Shirley’s life, it also kept me in suspense about what the play is going to be about. In the opening of the play she was just talking, talking to the wall and the camera… “There’s a women three doors down. Talks to her microwave”, she was trying to say there is nothing wrong talking to a wall even if it isn’t alive. When I read that line it made me realise that Shirley doesn’t keep anything in her. Even if she didn’t have any one to talk to she let her emotions or feelings out no matter whom she was talking to. This shows she is reflective and self-aware.
I noticed something about Shirley’s husband in the opening of the play. I think she was a bit frightened of Joe… “Oh God! What will he be like, eh wall? My feller? What will he be like when he finds out he’s only getting’ chips on’ egg for his tea?” This captured my attention because she was worried about what Joe will say because he might not like chips and egg, which made me think that he might be very strict and disrespectful husband. Something else I observed about Shirley’s marriage was that she had rules to follow… “Well, its Thursday, y’see. And on Thursday it has to be steak. It is the eleventh commandment, Moses declared it”. This tells me that she has to give particular meals on particular days. That quote also meant she had to follow rules, she was trying to say Joe was Moses who gave out the rules. This really explained it all to me, that what kind of marriage Shirley has got herself into.
Reading the opening of this screenplay tells me that Shirley Bradshaw is a typical, lonely housewife who has no one to talk to and no kind of excitement in her life except from doing domestic jobs. When I was watching the film there was a soundtrack at the beginning of the screenplay also written by Willy Russell. It was mainly about Shirley and her life… “The girl that used to be me”, this line captured my attention because it told me that Shirley has changed a lot. She is not the girl she used to be when she was a teenager and how her life has changed after she has got married. It also made me realise that Shirley reflects back a lot on her teenage life. Another line that caught my attention was… “When she was at school, she was free as a bird”, this tells me she had a lot of freedom in her teenage life, she could do whatever she wanted and she seemed much happier. But now as middle-aged women she has no freedom, no excitement and no one.
That’s the massive change in her life and she is always inside, whenever her part comes in the play she is always in the kitchen (interior) it is like she id restricted to go out for some excitement. While the soundtrack was being played there were pictures of Shirley doing domestic jobs. Then the play starts with Shirley walking in the house with bags full of shopping, showing when she did go out she went to get things not to socialise or have fun. In the opening of the play the way it is structured gives us an idea of Shirley’s life and the changes that have been made. When Willy Russell put a soundtrack on by listening to the words made me understand about her life. Also when she talks to the wall at the start of the play gives the audience an idea, why is she talking to the wall? So by the way Willy Russell has structured the play gives the audience an idea what changes have been going on in her life.
As I have said in the opening of the play we find out Shirley talks to the wall, she is frightened of Joe, she tells the camera rules she has to follow given by Joe and we see her doing domestic jobs. Willy Russell uses a lot of dramatic monologue to enable the audience to understand Shirley in much more detail, also to make the atmosphere of the screenplay more exciting and interesting. It also enables the audience as if they were the closest friends to Shirley.
To create dramatic device Willy Russell creates flashbacks. Flashbacks about Shirley referring back to her past. By creating flashbacks it makes it more interesting for the audience to understand about her past. But if Shirley just told us about her past from a-z it would be extremely boring and the audience wouldn’t understand her viewpoints. During flashbacks Shirley uses voiceovers meaning while we are in the flashback Shirley is narrating. So it is like she is talking to us personally. It also enables the audience to know how Shirley sees the event on reflection… “(VO) I don’t really have much to do with Gillian”, we saw another picture of Gillian crossing the road coming to Shirley’s house and Shirley in voiceover telling us about Gillian. So this way we got to know Shirley’s point of view about Gillian. So by Willy Russell creating voiceovers it made me understand Shirley’s life from her viewpoint instead from my own or some omnipotent narrators. Flashbacks enabled the audience and me to have a picture about Shirley’s past in our mind; therefore we understand her past much more fluently.
Willy Russell creates more dramatic monologue by making Shirley speak to the camera. Again this made me feel that Shirley was speaking to me personally. But it was a bit different this time. When Shirley was in voiceovers she was talking to us but not looking at us, but with her looking at the camera it was even more like she was talking to us because she was looking at us which made it more factual. This way I also got to understand Shirley’s life and viewpoints much better. Shirley’s language has a lot of humour for the audience, she doesn’t laugh at it but it makes us laugh. When she talks, she talks different from us not because of her accent. When she talks about Gillian, she doesn’t say she is mad but she says… “…. She’s got a brain tumour.” Meaning the language she uses is not like everybody else, she is different; she has her own way of speaking. In other words she has her own way of expressing what she thinks. So Willy Russell also created a different use of language to make Shirley look more different and speak more expressively from the other characters. To make more dramatic monologue Willy Russell created flashbacks, voiceovers and Shirley speaking to the camera. This enabled the audience to be more involved in Shirley’s life and be more understanding. The way Willy Russell has structured the play has gave the audience an extended understanding of the changes in Shirley’s life by using flashbacks, so we can look back on her past.
The play is organized into flashbacks so we can look back at Shirley’s past, which is when she was a teenager and when she just got married. This way the audience has a chance to see the changes in Shirley’s life from before to now. Shirley and Joe’s marriage; the strength of it has been dropping rapidly. We are able to see this in flashbacks from Shirley in her twenties, thirties and up to present. Her marriage has gradually fallen apart, also we can see her self-esteem had decreased. In flashbacks we are able to see the days in 1965 when Shirley and Joe just got married… “Aren’t we the darin’ young things getting in the bath together? Does this mean where perverted?”. This quote made me see they had a lot of love for each other then. It certainly made me realise that Shirley wasn’t lonely then.
They were always joking around in those days and laughing together which showed me there was a lot of love between them. Also Joe was very respectful, caring and loving with Shirley… “I love you…Shirley Valentine”. He made Shirley happy by telling her he loved her. Also I noticed they probably had just got married because he called Shirley Valentine instead of Shirley Bradshaw. Those were the days when he cared about her it has changed a lot now… “What’s goin on here, who the bloody hell you talking to?”. Shirley was talking to the wall and Joe walked in and talked to her rudely just after the flashback of the good times.
That was a good way Willy Russell structured the play to show the huge change in their marriage. Joe treats her like rubbish, like she is some employee… “Never mind the bleedin’ wall. Its nearly six ‘o’clock, get on with getting me tea”. He treats her like a housemaid not a wife. I think this massive change has after Brian and Millandra were born, Shirley realises this but not Joe. Joe is always at work and spends no time at home with Shirley. Spending time together is a vital aspect in a marriage these days. As vital aspects of a marriage has been gone their marriage has fallen apart like two clouds blowing away from each other.
There is a big contrast in Shirley’s life from when she was teenager and now when she is a middle-aged woman. Shirley has flashbacks about when she was a teenager. This enables us to know what she was like at school and before she got married. Shirley wasn’t one of those really clever and intelligent children… “But it was only the clever ones who got to do things like that. The ones like Marjorie. I used sit next to her in class”. Shirley was putting herself down and I could tell she always wanted to be like Marjorie.
Once Shirley knew an answer to a question from the headmistress, but she wouldn’t let Shirley answer because she thought Shirley was dumb… “Miss it was the wheel! Man most important invention”. Headmistress, “Somebody must have told you!”. Headmistress didn’t give Shirley a chance and she put Shirley down and her confidence down… “All me house points and me blessin’ from the pope had just disappeared before my eyes. I was rebel.” Shirley had lost all her confidence and didn’t really care about her education. She had just blocked education out her mind after that incident.
Shirley’s self esteem decreased rapidly… “I hate the world. I hate everythin’. It’s all garbage. It’s lost. Its crap and I hate it”, she didn’t like her life and she really didn’t like the world all after she lost her confidence. But the adult Shirley reflects that she didn’t hate anything… “The only thing I hated was me”, she had no self-esteem. She always wanted to be like Marjorie but never admitted it. She didn’t have the confidence to be like her. But Shirley now reflects back and realises all the opportunities she missed. She also admitted to Marjorie when they met after several years… “I always wanted to be like you. If only we’d known, we could’ve been best mates- you know real dose”.
Shirley uses voiceovers in the flashbacks to comment on what she was like; she thought she was extremely cruel… “God, can’t you be evil when you’re a kid? I used to pick on Marjorie somethin’ rotten”. Shirley admitted she behaved disgracefully. At the end of term when pupils get their annual reports Marjorie gets praises from the headmistress. Shirley gets called up… “Well Shirley- naturally you are leaving us. And a brief glance at your report confirms my deep suspicion that you will not go far in life”, again Shirley gets a negative comment and gets put down by headmistress but Shirley doesn’t really care anymore… “Well, tickle my tits till Friday”, Shirley just went home and chucked her report away and insulted the headmistress because she has blocked teenage education out of her mind. So she could never for fill her dream to be an airhostess and travel around the world, because she has lack of confidence and self-esteem who could never for fill her dreams and just became a housewife instead.
Shirley has always had a dream to go to Greece and she decides to go. After all the flashbacks she has had, she realises she needs a break from boring, dull Liverpool. She has never before had the bravery to go away from Liverpool- Shirley Bradshaw the housewife and go to Greece- Shirley Valentine… “I’m no longer Shirley Bradshaw- middle aged housewife, beginnin to sag a bit- I’m Shirley the brave, Shirley the marvellous…Shirley Valentine! From no on when I look in the mirror …”. Shirley started to get her confidence and self-esteem, something she has never had. She starts to go out, not always stuck in the house she has become more active. Shirley gets the confidence to go to Greece to enjoy herself. She’s had the bravery to leave Joe and go to Greece.
Willy Russell uses a big contrast between the two settings Greece and Liverpool. While Shirley is in the hot summer weather in Greece, Joe comes home in a bad mood in cold, windy, wet, boring Liverpool. Willy Russell is showing that Rainy Liverpool signifies boring, plain Shirley Bradshaw and Greece exudes exciting, hot Shirley Valentine. That is the contrast he has used to show the difference between the two Shirley’s. Greece was the beginning of Shirley’s change… “I hardly recognise myself these days… I love it here”, Shirley noticed herself she has changed and because of that she loves it in Greece. Shirley was very self aware… “That’s Rock. We met the first day I got here- I found you didn’t I rock”, as Jane went off with another man she ignored that and thought I’m not going to ruin my fun. So she found Rock who keeps her busy. She didn’t care that she was on her own; she’s use to it… “(VO)- I thought why am I so terrified of being on my own? I’m an expert at it. Then I started to relax”, she referred back to Liverpool how she was on her own. But she has the confidence back she doesn’t care anymore.
Shirley makes a friend in Greece, a man called Costas… “You like something”, Costas was being very polite and nice to Shirley. Costas made Shirley happy he did things for her as she was on her own… “Oh, it ees my pleasure. I move table to sea- and tonight in my bar; I tell customers- tonight, eh, tonight, I make someone’s dream come true”, he was proud to help Shirley. Shirley was extremely happy about her dream coming true… “I’ve pictured myself sitting here drinking”. Costas was polite and asked Shirley if she wants to come around the island… “So… eh tomorrow you want come weez me?” Shirley was a bit scared… “No, no, no really… I mean… I don’t think I should because…” She was feeling guilty as she left Joe at home. Costas really liked Shirley and her personality he wanted to…”Of course I want to make foak with you. You beautiful women”. Shirley decided to go really deep inside she really liked him.
Shirley really enjoyed Costas’s company… “You really know how to talk to a women don’t you? I think she was falling in love with Costas. After a bit of a romance scene took place, Costas makes love to Shirley. Willy Russell created a good dramatic scene he created waves moving fast, and the boat shaking a lot and also the flag was flying. Which showed it was humorous and fun not like it was serious. Costas made Shirley feel good unlike Joe… “Be proud, show em- these marks show your alive, marks of your life”. That is why she enjoyed his company. Shirley changed a lot in Greece and she felt good and proud about herself. I think it’s funny how your self-esteem increased as soon as she left Liverpool.
Since Shirley has gone to Greece she has changed a lot she has gone through a ‘Change of Life’. At the end of the play Shirley briefly tells Joe the change of life she has gone through… “Hello. I used to be a mother. I used to be the wife. But now I’m Shirley Valentine”, I think Joe understood what she was saying. I don’t think their relationship is going to change because Shirley is enjoying the single, free Shirley Valentine. But they will still remember the good times.
Shirley has changed a lot as a person, she is more self aware, she has got her confidence and self esteem back and is enjoying her independent life and I don’t think she’ll let anyone ruin what she has got.