As in most plays, the use of language is substantial and holds an essential role in the delivery of the production. In ‘Shirley Valentine’ there are several aspects of the use of language which contribute to the final product. A salient feature of the play would include the accent and dialect used throughout the whole play by Shirley. We’re not directly told that she’s from Liverpool, but we are able to establish the characters background purely from her accent and the colloquialisms she uses.
Shirley’s scouse is emphasized through the contrast of the heightened language she uses. An example of this would be when she adopts a posh accent in regards of going the ‘facking loop’ she says: ‘yes Joseph I rather think I have’. This alteration in speech adds a facetious tone to her opinion on her relationship with her husband as well as on her own class.
Shirley also adds an emphasis on the comparison between the cockney Manchester accent we hear from Jeanette and Douggie and their juxtaposition to scouse. The only other disparity in accents that we sense throughout the play is that of Costas, with a sexy Greek almost broken English, enhancing the effect of the sexy Greek man, it augments the aura of the exotic origins of ‘Christopher Columbus’.
We experimented with different accents for the lines as they were written, only adjusting the accents and leaving the dialect to remain, instead of scouse we attempted a NYC Italian mafia style accent and tone with the line ‘y’did what? What did y’do? Y’gave it to the dog? ‘ we found that this completely converts the text from one era to another, through just listening to the words, without adding actions, the images conjured up are entirely varied with the two accents.
The names within the play also seem to have been considered, Millandra, Shirley and Marjorie do carry connotations of being names from ‘up north’, whereas Joe and Brian are slightly to commonly used to be able to identify that they belong to a specific area. The name ‘Marjorie Majors’ carries an literary complexity through the alliteration, I would believe that this is purposeful to match her supposed admirable elegance and perfection, it would make sense that out of all the characters, it would be her name that withholds an essence of poetry.
Costas’ nickname; Christopher Columbus, holds evident symbolism which is clearly explained by Shirley in the play, ‘we discovered it you see’, she predestines the re-discovery of her ‘clitoris’ before she even meets Costas, by mentioning that in the same way that America and penicillin were discovered the clitoris also has to be discovered, ‘it’s not really there until it’s been discovered is it? ‘ Ironically she says, I should’ve married Christopher Columbus. The first act of the play is a single sided conversation between the wall and Shirley.
This conversation consists greatly of rhetorical questions; from this we undoubtedly acknowledge Shirley’s insecurities, she seeks reassurance from a wall to assure herself that she’s telling her tale accurately, phrases such as ‘aren’t I wall? ‘ ‘Didn’t I wall? ‘ though in the second act she is angered by Jane treating her as a ’50 year old pensioner or a 5 year old child’ such requirements of reassurance, especially if being sought from inanimate vertical structure, don’t suggest that she is otherwise. Also read about dramatic irony in the “Lottery”
However though the questions are presumably a hunt for endorsement, Shirley is assertive with her delivery of her reservations. She articulates them in an assertive and stubborn manner, as if the wall does not have a choice but to agree with her, which of course is in fact the case. The play is very written in the way that there are many links which have been made between the texts, the beginning ties in beautifully to the end with the irony of repetition.
The development we see in Shirley’s character between the first and second acts becomes more evident as she uses the same words but in advanced circumstances. In my opinion the best example of this is ‘Greek inventions… the wheel’, the initial time that the wheel is mentioned Shirley is dismissed for using it, whereas the second time, she rose above the people surrounding her, though people near her are still in favor of distancing the conversation topic of the wheel, it is very differently portrayed in it’s use in the second act.
Her statement is acknowledged. A rather difference effect of repetition can be seen through the continuous use of the word clitoris. Clitoris is not a word which would be comfortably used in society without either scientific reference or without the intention of insulting someone, it is a word which carries a certain element of surprised when hear, however through her profuse repetition of the word this shock element disappears entirely and the audience become numb to its effects.
She also uses this same technique through the ‘f’ plan diet with the word sex; ‘sex for breakfast, sex for dinner, sex for tea, sec for supper. ‘ In contrast, there also seems to be a constant definitive reference, the concept that she believes that she is being punished for her sons failure in arriving in Bethlehem, as well as adding a comical element, raises queries about what else she has actually done wrong to be as god fearing.
We analyzed the taboo’s and sexual innuendos in the text, and it is prevalent that there is frequent sexual reference through out the play. We approached the text with images, looked at the structure of the lines, added exaggerated actions for each word, varying the tone and dynamics with each word uttered, and then toned it down entirely to a soft whisper. I found this process incredibly useful as it allows the actors to grasp the concept of the line, to not just get the gist of it, but to fully understand every single word, and to acknowledge each word.
With text which carry sexual innuendos it can often be difficult to ignore the humor and carry on as if it were natural, but this process allows us to inhabit the language, through these techniques we can root the language in our breath, and this establishment is essential for us to enforce the naturalistic manner intended by Stanislavsky for naturalistic plays. The main humor of the play lies with the idiosyncrasies Shirley has.
First and foremost, talking to the wall, it’s not a mannerism which would often be considered as normal, when she goes to Greece, she no longer trusts the Greek walls, instead finds comfort in a Greek rock. Where Shirley talks to the walls and rock, Joe talks to the cooker and fridge. This is an element which I found quite interesting as it’s ironic how they find comforts in inanimate objects but refuse to talk to each other about their problems, which in theory, would be the sane thing to do. o aid us in our understanding of the reported speech we used each hand as a different character with ‘he said/ she said’ techniques.
My partner showed a very natural approach t using gestures in differentiating between characters and managed to adopt the tone for each character whereas I found that though the hands created a visual aid, the process assisted me to understand the reported speech, however I found it easier to provide the characters whose speech I would be reporting with a characterization if I did it without using hand gestures
As well as appreciating the language used, the non spoken word also adds substantial effects to the play. Examples would include dramatic pauses, dashes, or question marks at the end of sentences which would require the pitch to be raised slightly as the sentence comes to a conclusion. My favorite line is ‘you know she’s walking through this torrential rain and I guarantee not one drop of it was landing on her’, I believe it to be a beautiful image of Shirley idolizing Marjorie Majors to the degree that she has given her an infinite godliness, which paints a stunning picture with contrast to the ‘torrential rain’.