Written by Australian playwright and screenwriter, John Misto, The Shoehorn Sonata is a powerful award-winning drama based on the true events of two women interred in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in the Sumatran jungle. Bridie is an Australian nurse and Sheila is an English teenage girl. During their imprisonment the pair develop a strong bond and close friendship, with Bridie doing everything she could to protect young Sheila. After the war the women were separated and are reunited for the first time, fifty years later, to tell their stories for a television documentary. What is revealed is the atrocity of war, personal secrets, and the lengths someone will go to protect another.
The detailed set (design by Andrew Ferguson) establishes the locations perfectly, and is powerfully enhanced by the use of real POW images to bring an incredible realism. The play is peppered with lighter moments, which brings out the stoic nature of the prisoners. It also provides some balance to the heavier aspects of the story. Costumes (Val Miitchelmore) are well suited to the characters, and lighting design (Liam Mitchinson) and sound design (Blake Stringer) enhance the play.
The casting is perfect.
Genevieve Ryan, as Bridie, and Stephanie King are superb. Both deliver strong performances, are perfectly suited to their characters and contrast each other well. Ryan brings out the quirky charm of the Australian character, while King provides the contrast of a well-raised, glove-wearing English young woman.
The play is usually performed as a two-hander, with just an off-stage voice of the television interviewer. However, Director Andrew Ferguson’s brilliant vision to give the interviewer an onstage presence creates a powerful interaction and greater sense of realism and depth to the stories of these women. It’s hard to imagine it working as well without this onstage presence.
Blake Stringer is outstanding as the interviewer, listening intently to the women share their stories as if it’s the first time he’s ever heard them.
The Shoehorn Sonata tells the extraordinary story of two women whose lives were forever changed by the atrocities of war. It’s confronting, thought-provoking, educational and, at times, entertaining – beautifully balanced with some laughs, poignant tear-jerking moments and facts that elicit an audible gasp.
Definitely worth checking out.
The Shoehorn Sonata is playing at the 1812 Theatre until April 22nd.
For more information and tickets: https://www.1812theatre.com.au/