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How do the dramatic techniques used in the play help the audience to understand the importance of Shirley's transformation?

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Shirley Valentine How do the dramatic techniques used in the play help the audience to understand the importance of Shirley's transformation? In the play Shirley Valentine, Willy Russell portrays a spectacular transformation in the main character Shirley. Shirley is a stifled middle aged woman, living in a typical urban area of Liverpool in 20th century London. Throughout the novel she is transformed from a suffering middle ages woman living in the stereotypical 'kitchen sink drama', lifestyle, to a spontaneous woman who is acknowledging how to enjoy life to the fullest. Shirley's main change is conveyed in Shirley reclaiming her lost identity as 'Shirley Valentine'. Russell's true message behind this novel however was not to show the change in a woman living in a typical working class environment, but conversely to show the hard lives they lived, trapped in a cycle of deprivation. Numerous dramatic techniques are used in order to depict Shirley's thoughts and emotions, but most importantly to help the audience understand the importance of her change. A few of the dramatic techniques which Russell uses are, flashbacks, voice-overs, speaking directly to the camera and dramatic monologues. In this essay I will be studying the transformation of Shirley Valentine and the dramatic techniques used in order to help the audience understand the importance of Shirley's transformation. The novel has many similarities to Russell's young life. Many of the aspects of "Shirley Valentine" are based and were inspired by Russell's own life experiences. Russell's life experiences have an effect on the play, as his life experiences caused him to have many views which are shown through the play through the similarities. It can almost be said that Russell is portraying himself through Shirley Valentine and expressing his own life and views of life in her character. The setting of the play reflects the area in which Russell grew up in, the urban streets of Liverpool. ...read more.


The dramatic monologues help the audience understanding of Shirley's character as it allows the audience to know Shirley's true feelings as she turns and reveals her inner thoughts to the camera. Only Shirley engages in dramatic monologues which pushes her in front of all the other characters as she is feels closer to the audience. What's most important is that we as an audience stick by her through the most fundamental scenes and moments in her transformation. Throughout the play we hear a lot more clever and sarcastic comments from Shirley. An example of this is about the strict routine her husband Joe makes her follow. When Shirley goes against one of the rules her husband has given her about cooking eggs and steak by cooking eggs and chips she says "It's the Eleventh Commandment. Moses declared it. 'Thou shalt give thy feller steak every Thursday' ". This shows that she makes a joke out of things to make it less worrying. It also shows she pity's her own daily routine. In the scene where Costas and Shirley are having sex, Costas makes a speech to Shirley and Shirley seems to be taken in by the speech, but she turns around to the camera and says "aren't men full of shit" which she would have never said to Costas' face. This reveals Shirley's nature of revealing serious matters of life through comedy, which in turn makes the audience feel privileged to know her true feelings. There is a point within the play where Shirley is contemplating staying in Greece. During a voiceover she discusses with us, the idea of leaving her husband to lead a life abroad. This moment is vital to her transformation; and could be seen as a life changing decision. Shirley tells us 'I've got this thought in my head', before Shirley continues, we as an audience and as her friend know her thoughts and emotions, because of Russell's use of monologue and voiceover. ...read more.


We manage to see exactly what made her become the way she was in Liverpool, through the many flashbacks. We also understand her feelings towards her life through all her voiceovers. The minor characters helped to contribute to her change, especially Costas. Her affair with him helped her to realise exactly how attractive she is, and this helped her to re gain her confidence mentally and physically, as her husband's affection to her had stopped. After her husband Joe follows her in Greece, their conversation proves the result of her transformation. Joe says to her 'I didn't recognize you'. This man who she has been with for such a long time couldn't even recognize her. This proves she has gone through a vast change. Shirley also says 'He needs a holiday', this shows that she is aware of her transformation and she hopes her husband can go through it too because he could benefit from it, and can take a turn like her. She gains sympathy for her husband now that she has changed. Shirley is now not unnerved by her former oppressors and is far more confident with herself. The transformation of Shirley Valentine could not have been so well empathised in the film if it had not been because of Russell's numerous dramatic techniques. We get a true insight to the reality of 'kitchen sink dramas'. Russell leaves the audience with his views on society which are shown through the character Shirley. He believes that 'status' and 'class' doesn't make you any different to anyone else, and that everyone should be treated equally. Near the end of the play Shirley says 'I think I've come to like myself really'. As we the audience are her new friend and have stuck by her throughout the whole play, the audience gain a sense of sheer happiness for her, and we are left with an optimistic feeling, knowing that we can change for the good and not let bad past experiences bring us down. ...read more.

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