Shirley Valentine 

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Originally ‘Shirley Valentine’ was a sensational monologue performed by Pauline Collins. Willy Russell wrote it as a screenplay about a tedious and lone some middle-aged woman’s story who is trapped in her marriage. She has the utter extravagant opportunity to escape from this miserable life of hers to go and search for the real ‘Shirley Valentine’. During this journey we are shown the different stages of her life as she sees them. Russell has used devices such as flashbacks and voiceovers to make the screen play more interesting for the audience to understand.

These devices play a big role in the structure of the play. This essay illuminates Shirley’s transformation and how the formation of the play shows this.

Russell has used a wide range of cinematic devices. This allows the audience to understand Shirley in a more better interesting and effective way. We are shown credits before the start. They overlay pictures of more domestic activities which any typical house wife would have to do.

For example gardening and cleaning. We also hear a soundtrack which gives a negative feeling because of it’s sympathetic mood. This gives us a clue about the film and also introduces the idea of regret. The lyrics describe some one who is not appeased and satisfied. This would make us think that the movie is about Shirley and her unsatisfied life.

The film opens with Shirley doing one of her domestic activities. She’s carrying her bags of shopping in to the kitchen in a uncheery manner.

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Shirley then closes the door and leans against it . A moment later we have her talking to the wall “Hello wall” to indicate that she must be lonely and even shows us that she must be fed-up. Gillian pops by and asks Shirley to come over. Shirley (vo) said, “oooo she’s got a brain tumour”. Gillian thinks she’s the best and shows off all the time. She asks Shirley to feed the dog while she’s away in Brussels very rudely.” I’d make arrangements for mummy to feed Claymore- but she finds now she can’t do this evening. So if you could manage…”.

Its like just Gillian insulted Shirley. Gillian told Shirley to feed the muesli to the vegetarian bloodhound. However Shirley gave Joe’s steak to the dog as she knew it was sick of eating muesli. Gillian didn’t seem to realise that. Russell had used specific devices to help the audience get to know Shirley better. Just like flashbacks, which enable us to see the past to see what happened. We only see what happened from Shirley’s point of view. So we only see one side of the argument. We often have Shirley talking to the camera. This would make us feel included and as though she’s talking to us telling us her feelings which may encourage us to believe her so we’ll be on her side as we’re biased.

Shirley shares her feelings with the wall as there is no body else around ,”Hey, wall do you remember when we first moved in here?”. There we’re shown a flashback in which Joe and Shirley are newly married. The scene shows is how happy they both were, their relationship was so friendly and everything was perfect. The scene after this contrasts sharply because their relationship with each other has completely changed, kind of like the opposite. When Joe comes home he starts yelling at Shirley in a very bad way, “Who the bloody hell are you talkin’ to?.” After watching the flash back we can see how Shirley’s life has changed. We feel more sympathy for her because of Joe’s change. We think that it’s all Joe’s fault and that there’s no hand of Shirley behind this. The play is organised with flashbacks to show the importance of these changes. The flashback of when they were newly married fits in because the scene before is about Shirley talking to the wall about how Joe used to be. It connects.

The play has been organised into flashbacks through out so that we can look back at events from Shirley’s point of view so we can understand her better. Just like the flash back of when Shirley was at school. Voiceovers help too because as well as just watching what happened, we listen to Shirley tell us how she felt and also add anything that would help us to understand the situation that she was in better. Like when the headmistress said, “Oh, Shirley do put your hand down. You couldn’t possibly know the answer.” Shirley was not given the opportunity to answer the question because of her image and impression on people. Shirley (vo) , “But I knew I had the right answer.” This showed us that Shirley’s expectations weren’t high enough at school. The turning point for Shirley was after that school assembly because she wasn’t given the chance to participate which made her really furious. Shirley (vo), “But it was only the clever ones who get to do things like that. The ones like Majorie Majors.” Shirley started to pick on Majorie Majors because of her jealousy and became evil. Shirley (vo) , “I was never really interested in school after that. I became a rebel.” If the play wasn’t organised into flashbacks and other devices and the story was shown in the order it actually happened then we would not feel sympathy for Shirley. We may even hate her know because we wouldn’t see the story from her eyes.

Shirley isn’t quite sure of her decision to go to Greece. The scene when Joe violently pushes his plates of chips and egg is when Shirley makes her mind to go. She shows Joe the poster of Greece to tell him that she’s going. Shirley said, “It’s a place . . . It’s a place I’m goin’ to.” It was Joe’s behaviour that made Shirley make her mind up, Joe was the reason of Shirley deciding not to go because of her guiltiness of leaving Joe alone. We understand that it’s right for Shirley to go because of the way Joe’s been treating her and because of the flashbacks which makes us feel sorry for her. This ‘chips and egg’ scene shows us that all Joe cares about is his daily routine, nothing else is important to him.

Joe was swearing and yelling at Shirley just because she fed the steak to Gillian’s dog. Joe said, “Chips an’ eggs. Chips an’ friggin’ egg . . . when I’m working all the hours that God sends.” This scene shows us that Joe still hasn’t been able to understand Shirley well. Joe thinks that Shirley’s all happy at home and has a great time. He doesn’t get that she talks to the kitchen wall because of her loneliness. We also understand that it’s right for Shirley to go because we see things from her point of view and Shirley thinks that it’s right for herself to go so we agree with her.

During her holiday in Greece Shirley begins to like herself again. She realises her need for happiness. The fact that she changes from Shirley Bradshaw to Shirley Valentine is made noticeable by Willy Russell. The scene on the boat when Shirley and Costas lie on a towel kissing is an example of Shirley changing because it shows us if Shirley still cared about Joe she would have said no to him. When Jane said, “I know you must be having the most awful time. I suppose you’ve been sitting here talking to the wall haven’t you? . . .” Jane was wrong this shows that Shirley has changed because what Jane expected fro her didn’t happen. Shirley had a great time with Costas and on the beach. This shows that Shirley is becoming independent and is no longer dependant on others. The setting and costume are different in Greece and so helped because Greece is full of Sunshine and social life where as in Liverpool it’s usually quite dull with pouring rain and for most of the time Shirley’s at home alone. We are shown short scenes in which Shirley gets together with other women and is socially involved. In Greece people are open with each other. Shirley’s clothing in Greece made her seem younger and single.

Kitchen sink drama is drama portraying working class and lower middle class life, social problems or relationships with an emphasis on domestic realism. ‘Shirley Valentine’ is an example of Kitchen sink drama because it is based around the kitchen sink. Shirley has no purpose in life and hasn’t fulfilled her ambitions. She is caught in her married life. She doesn’t have any particular reason to live. You can’t say Shirley Valentine is a proper kitchen sink drama because in the end Shirley is no longer around the kitchen sink. This shows that she has changed. This is why it just leans upon Kitchen sink drama. Russell has made many of the convections of Kitchen sink drama to make the screen play more poignant.

At the end we can tell that Shirley has changed because from working in the kitchen she now works in Greece in the Taverna. This is a physical change but she has mentally changed too. Her thoughts, ideas of living and everything has changed. She even admits it, “That’s right Joe. That’s exactly what it is, Joe. It’s a change of life.” In the last scene Joe walks past Shirley because he didn’t manage to recognise her. This shows that Shirley has even changed her look. She called Joe and said, “Hello I used to be the mother, I used to be the wife but now I’m Shirley Valentine again.” Joe had no choice he had to accept it because Shirley just told him that she changed. Joe remained silent until Shirley asked him to join her for a drink. Joe said, “Err, thanks.”

This shows that Joe is a little nervous and because he didn’t say anything it shows their relationship has changed and that she’s no longer ‘Shirley Bradshaw’. At the beginning in a flash back we found out that young Shirley hated herself. She wanted to be like Majorie. Now Shirley is proud of her self as an individual. She has gained confidence in herself. She relied on Joe for almost everything but now she doesn’t need him, which is why she didn’t leave him earlier. The play has been organised using devices to show the importance of Shirley’s changes and so that they are well noticed. The play has been structured in such a way to show the changes clearly.

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Shirley Valentine . (2018, Dec 18). Retrieved from

Shirley Valentine 
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