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Describe, Examine and analyse how Willy Russell uses Dramatic devices to highlight themes and issues in the play "Shirley Valentine"

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Describe, Examine and analyse how Willy Russell uses Dramatic devices to highlight themes and issues in the play "Shirley Valentine" The play 'Shirley Valentine' was written by Willy Russell and set in Middle England in the middle 1980's. During this time England was experiencing great upheaval in both the political and social sphere. Society, during the 80's, became a place of equal pay for women. The appointment of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister heralded a new era. The new Prime Minister was a woman, a time of Women's superiority came about and Feminism was awoken. Willy Russell was born in Whiston, near Liverpool, England, in 1947. Russell has written a string of popular, award-winning plays and musicals, but perhaps one of the most well known is Educating Rita which was successfully made into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters. Other well known Russell works include Shirley Valentine and Blood Brothers. There was a strong tradition of storytelling in his family, who were 'thinking' working class. His school career in the 'D Stream' was undistinguished. At fifteen he left with one 'O' Level, in English Language, with little idea of what he wanted to do beyond a vague notion of wanting to become a writer. He was unsure of how to enter that world, so he drifted into hairdressing. Subsequently he spent more time writing songs than setting hair. Eventually he left and worked in several industrial jobs before deciding to return to full-time education. Willey Russell has strong views on the working classes' attempts to gain access to middle-class culture. He said "Whilst the working-classes are accused of being philistines, there is a general attempt in this country to withhold culture from them... Literature is an invention by the middle-classes for their own benefit. The working-classes haven't accepted literacy yet, which is why it is so difficult teaching working-class kids whose traditions are in the spoken word. ...read more.


The main reason for this technique is to create the effect of companionship. Shirley waits for what she 'believes' Marjorie Majors is like to brag about she 'great' life, but instead the stereotype that Shirley had in her mind collapses. Instead Marjorie invites Shirley into her hotel room and she opens up to Shirley and tells her she didn't get a good high class job, she became a high class escort, and tells Shirley that she envied her. This makes the audience think people can change and turn into totally different people, but Shirley on the other hand has been the same 'Shirley Valentine', but just grown-up even Marjorie notices this. Shirley saw how Marjorie's dream to have failed and to everyone's surprise Marjorie turns out to be a 'hooker' which is another example of collapsed stereotyping and to add humour to a rather reflective, sentimental moment, almost to break the ice/silence. After this we meet a character called Gillian. She is a stereotypical, middle class woman who lives in a nice house has, 2.4 children, has nice clothes etc. She is very up with the trends and believes to have a lavish lifestyle and is not at all shy in showing that off. She tries very hard to keep up with trends, she is a vegan and her whole family have turned vegan even the Bloodhound Dog! Shirley replies to this with the humorous comment "Oh. I thought you were still Church of England". This would amuse the audience, and this highlights the class divide between the rich and the working class, as does the fact that Gillian only feeds her dog (the bloodhound) muesli. The name 'Bloodhound' just is screaming to Shirley that this dog cannot be fed muesli and is unhappy and mal-nourished. Shirley finds this incomprehensible and feeds the dog her beef steak that she got for Joe's tea. This incident leads to the play's main confrontation. ...read more.


The play showed how other people can be so judgemental to people who to be accepted as who they are for example: Shirley wanted to be Shirley Valentine and had to rediscover herself by going to Greece where she was 'reborn' as Shirley Valentine. Most characters in the play all have the same desire to be accepted and do all they can to be so, they change there personality to suit others and society, and so are not true to themselves. Shirley decided for herself, that if the people she cared about the most didn't accept her for who she was and/or didn't want to know who she 'really' was, she didn't want to know them. Shirley breaks free from all types of prejudice and becomes her true self Shirley Valentine, this gives the audience hope that maybe they can do the same, the play is very hopeful for people in terms of seeing a 'average' person actually be happy without the restraints of modern day life. In conclusion to the title 'Describe, Examine and analyse how Willy Russell uses Dramatic devices to highlight themes and issues in the play "Shirley Valentine"'. I believe that the use of dramatic devices highlights themes and issues in the play very well, using old and new devices to make the audience see everything through the person of Shirley Valentine; he is able to make them 'be' her when they watch the play. It is not a story about Shirley Valentine more than in my opinion stepping into the shoes of Shirley Valentine and to see what she has put up with in a decade of change, revolution and turmoil and how she survived it. Willy Russell is able to show the audience how stereotypes can form and how they can collapsed and how the audience should no to approach anything with prejudices and discriminative attitudes as the people did towards 'Shirley Valentine' in the play. ...read more.

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