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Focusing on the 3 extracts from Shirley Valentine, but referring to the play as a whole. Show how Willy Russell presents Shirley’s life.

The play of Shirley Valentine is about a middle aged women who was a rebel in her younger days, she goes on holiday to find a better life, she goes to find ‘Shirley valentine’ because she was bored and depressed just stuck in her house all the time. She feels that she is taken for granted and thinks there is a better lifestyle waiting for her.

By the end of the play we see that Shirley and Joe are reunited just like they were when they were young. Willy Russell takes us into flashbacks through the whole story; this is one of many dramatic techniques used in the play to show Shirley’s past. Russell showed the couple as a loving young couple but they end up as an older couple feeling young again.

In the first extract we are shown Shirley and Joe as a young happily married couple painting their kitchen. They are playful and loving. Willy sets the atmosphere as a happy one. Shirley has a high self a steam and she is enjoying herself with Joe. The language used in the first extract is in a rude manor but it’s playful as they are young and happy. He uses words like ‘you little bugger’ and ‘you’re a bloody head case’. Some people may find this offensive but I think it sets a joyful scene. The language is appropriate and funny. Russell uses the swear words to a good quantity, enough to not get too rude and enough to have a laugh about. There is a bit of word play used as well like when Shirley say’s ‘here, Van Gogh’ and Joe replies ‘this is for you moaning Lisa’ this shows that they are young, happy and free. Willy Russell also uses rude jokes to show they are happy like when they are in the bath together Shirley say’s ‘does this mean were perverted’.

The second extract is very different to the first one because they are a lot older and a lot more argumentative towards each other unlike the fist one where they enjoyed each others company, now all they want to do is be apart from each other. The scene stars with Shirley talking to the wall, whilst make the tea, this is a dramatic technique that’s shows us Shirley’s inner feelings. She is talking about why she is terrified about leaving Joe and how nobody would want her. We see Shirley’s self a steam has decreased. This extract comes across as very sad and moody because as the years have gone by they have grown further apart.

They have become stuck in routines. The character of Joe is shown by the way he treats Shirley like a servant, making sure she has no happiness and no life. Its like Joe is watching her constantly like when Shirley say’s ‘if I go to the toilet, he thinks I’ve left him’. Shirley’s character is shown by the patient way she puts up with Joe. This shows she is strong and willing to get on with her life instead of allowing Joe to boss her around.

The contrast between the extracts shows us that they are distant apart from each other, older and more sarcastic and aggressive. When they were younger, they were close and humorous together like when Joe says ‘I love you Shirley Valentine’ but he has forgotten this love.

At this point in the play I feel that Shirley and Joe are going to drift apart and end up leaving each other. I think that Shirley should go to Greece to have some time so they will realise why they married each other and how important their love is.

Willy Russell gets across to us that Shirley is strong by the humour she uses when Joe is shouting at her like ‘well it looks like chips and egg, but maybe it’s a trick question’

The dramatic techniques he uses are ellipses when Joe is angry to emphasise his anger ‘I’m-not-eatin’-shite!’ We see humour when Shirley is putting up with Joe’s anger. We also see strength in Shirley’s voice. ‘Shirley steps back calmly, but with steel in her voice’.

The swearing in this extract is more violent than playful this time; they are a lot me offensive, instead of the odd playful swear word thy are more frequent and more meaningful ‘I’m-not-eatin’-shite’

In the final extract we are shown Shirley in a Greek market shopping for food, just like she was back at home. We see Shirley on a scooter whilst we hear a voice over where Shirley is talking to Joe on the phone. Voice-overs are a quite common dramatic technique Willy Russell uses throughout the play; it is a sort of commentary on the action. It is a great technique used in appropriate places. Shirley feels happy and free with her new life in Greece just like when her new life with Joe started. She has ‘fallen in love with herself’, she is the old Shirley Valentine, the one ‘that used to laugh and used to be fun’. Her self a steam is very high, as she has ‘had a change of life’.

I think Joe is trying to win her back by pleading with her, this shows he misses her and he still loves her. We see he misses her when he two starts speaking to the wall! ‘I still love her wall, honest! Brian plays an important role in this extract that is a key moment because he’s the one that persuades and convinces Joe to win Shirley’s heart back. Brian say’s ‘you’re frightened of anything that’s different’, this is what Shirley said about herself earlier in the play. He goes on ‘I used to like, you were great, but you’ve become a borin’ bastard’ this makes Joe realise that he has changed, that he used to be fun, but now he’s boring and he needs to change back again.

The mood of this extract is a positive one for Shirley; she is living in a waking dream and she loves it, but Joe’s mood is negative, he is depressed about Shirley and all he can think about is work. Brian helps by convincing him to win her back.

We see Shirley walking into the Taverna with bags of shopping just lie when she was at home but now she is happier. She receives a telegram from Joe saying he’s ‘coming to get her’ and she makes a joke as always by saying ‘he must have being watching Rambo’, Russell shows Shirley as a calm, laid back person now she feels happier in herself.

In this extract Willy Russell uses new dramatic techniques and some ones he used earlier in the play, like voice-overs and humour but he has started to use repeats of words with different meanings. For example Joe say’s ‘ you can’t just run away from life’ and Shirley replies ‘I’m not, I’ve found life, I have no intention of running away from it’ also Joe say’s ‘ your going through the change of life’ Shirley say’s ‘that’s exactly what I’m going through, a change of life’. Shirley reputes Joe’s words with her own meaning. He also shows Joe as a strong character capable of change because when Brian say’s ‘he’s frightened’, Joe goes and proves him wrong by going to somewhere different. Russell makes Costas an echo of the person that Joe used to be. In the last few scenes it shows Shirley sat at a table by the sea just like when Shirley arrived at Greece. We see Joe on the beach heading towards Shirley, he gets closer and he ‘displays male approval’ but he doesn’t realise its Shirley.

Some people might find some language used in this play offensive but I think it creates the mood and the atmosphere adds comedy to it. Without the language used it would make the play dull and less funny. But not all the language is offensive some is just very playful.

Shirley has gone from a young, married, happy, free woman into a depressed, lonely, forgotten woman and finally into a middle aged, free, happy and enjoying life kind of woman and she feels young.

Russell has used many varieties of dramatic techniques and this is what creates the story because he uses things like flashbacks that show us Shirley’s past, voice-overs that are a sort of commentary on the action, word plays were he changes words to make them sound funny, the way he uses monosyllabic words when Joe is showing his aggression, the copying of words with different meanings and the way he makes Shirley take everything with a pinch of salt. He shows her calm and relaxed.



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