Sonnets for an Old Century (Clownfire) 2011 Toronto Fringe Review

Sonnets for an Old Century is a play with no linear narrative. Via 16 monologues there are 16 narratives that are told, each sharing what their last thoughts are before they die. If they simply have a story to share or if they have something to say to someone in particular. As these individuals grapple with death, so does the audience.

While trying to figure out how each individual died I realize that it doesn’t really matter, instead what matters is what they have to share about their life in this moment right before their death.

Not every story is drawn out and passionate, which is a great relief. Some are passionately told with lots of emotion but in fact are describing a simple, ordinary life.

There are times when I feel a few too many underdeveloped stories have me wanting more details. These short ones needn’t be longer or more intense, just more informative and insightful. I think it’s the lack of narrative between the monologues that makes this a little harder to deal with as some of the characters quickly fleet away. In hindsight however, these short, vague narratives bring a well-roundedness to the play. They offer the presence of the stories untold and unheard.

Some of these monologues are absolutely beautiful and descriptive with actors that are spectacular at creating a world with their voices. The true beauty of theatre is demonstrated.  You can’t relay this passion in any other form. There is effective interaction with the audience, which is completely appropriate and not overdone.

When you have an actor staring intensely into your eyes (or that’s what it seems like with the dim lighting) yelling about your lack of morals, your heart pounds uncontrollably. You know it’s not real, in fact what he’s going on about doesn’t even apply to you or your life in any way, but you feel the passion, and boy do you feel guilty.

In these tense situations there is a combination of loud yelling dripping with emotion -which I find is generally quite common in theatre- paired with sheer intensity and good acting. In this case, and in my opinion, good acting is when in these moments of yelling and heartfelt emotion the actor doesn’t rely on the volume of their voice to arouse emotion. There is something else, intensity, the annunciation, it doesn’t feel forced or shallow.  There was rarely any overacting, even the tears seemed genuine and most importantly were supported once again with convincing acting.

Sonnets for an Old Century left me with an understanding of the vastness of humanity, the sheer variety of people, personalities, lifestyles and experiences – and yet it only deals with Americans.

This is the kind of play that will pop into your head unexpectedly the next day. As time passes on, the stories sink in and become more impacting, in the few hours it’s been since I saw the show, the effect of the play has already changed on me.

I can see this play coming back to me a month from now, as I do some mundane task like walking home from work, or washing the dishes. This is simply because it deals with a prevalent human issue, death, and does it in such an intriguing yet straightforward way that it leaves one thinking. Hard.


Sonnets for an Old Century is playing at the Annex Theatre (736 Bathurst St.)
Show times:
Mon, July 11 8:30 PM
Wed, July 13 3:30 PM
Thu, July 14 11:00 PM
Fri, July 15 4:00 PM
Sat, July 16 5:45 PM

-All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only).

-Advance tickets are $11, available online at, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street

– Money saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.