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The Fringe Sonnets

In the spirit of Shakespeare, Will's writer and director Victoria Gartner wrote a sonnet a day during our stay at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019. Find all of them here!


The Hill on the First Day

Fringe Day 1 - August 12

When I close my eyes, I see made-up castles
Iron gates, towers, turrets burning bright
In th'setting sun. They remind me of fossils
Who've fought their way through time to see the light.
The crowds engulf us, shouting everywhere
We climb & climb, trying to draw their gaze
Who wants a picture? Flyer? Poster? There!
Someone has seen us! I smile, I fawn, I'm ablaze!
Someone has recognized our true story,
Our craft, our souls, our passion burning through.
Someone has seen the fire, the glory
The play that speaks to them, while true to you.
While they smile at our jibes & at our jests
Heavy rain comes. It takes care of all the rest.

The Royal Mile

Fringe Day 2 - August 13

At certain times of the night, I freeze. I see
Paler faces, ghastly sights, all from the past
I can't forget them, cannot let them be -
My soul is being cleansed by dreams. At last!
The Scottish soil beckons & promises
Such days of care, of turmoil fancy-free,
I let it withstand all the catharsis
I'll ever need. And all I'll ever be.
I let their gaze wash over me like waves
I let them take, I let them be surprised,
I let them meet me in th'darkest of caves,
Where I'll be free, where I'll be recognized.
I know that when I smile, they see through me
But I keep smiling, through eternity.

The Whole Point

Fringe Day 3 - August 14

All those shiny titles screaming at you:
"Come see me!" "Come to us!" "We're the best show!"
Yet we trod on, & yet we're pushing through
We'll win this game. But how? We don't yet know.
Our spirits soared, our nightly revels roared
We improvise emotions every day
We hope like hell our audience is not bored -
If that's the case, swoop in without delay!
We care, we share, we fare well: "Ladies, Sirs,..."
We write to you, claiming your attention
Wearing our best costumes, our pearls & furs,
We aim to outplay the competition.
But we never forget why we came - no -
To share our story, full of laughter and woe.

The Joined Hands

Fringe Day 4 - August 15

Shall I compare thee to a street at sunset?
A walk on the beach to th'rhythm of seagull's cry?
A perfect verse in the arms of a poet?
A flaming star teaching children to fly?
Thou art more testy, & more desperate.
Rough winds do shake the hopeful curls of August,
Sometimes the Mile seems bleak and desolate,
And all go by, not listening to the chorus.
And days go by, & so do our spirits. Lo!
We cannot always be glossy & new -
Still, we have to deliver a great show,
To toil 'til dusk, rise with the morning dew.
But when we see your faces full of grace
The curtain falls - as does the rest - into place.

The Break

Fringe Day 5 - August 16

Flashes of shows fast-forward in front of me,
Glimpses of things to be, of things to come,
Of things already done. Half-price or free?
The offers all stand, but I'm quite numb.
There is so much to see, so much to taste,
So much to experience, to discover -
I dress up, on, & off, flyer in haste,
I want to be entertained, yet I hover -
Where to go, now? Is enlightenment right, or left?
Is my soul to be uncovered there?
I find myself quite lost, & quite bereft -
So I step in th'middle of the street, & stare:
Low, gorgeous clouds are dancing, like dream-makers.
I take time to breathe, & nothing else matters.

The Fame

Fringe Day 6 - August 17

Beyond stage mountains & tall imaginings
Reigns a merciful Queen, of all beloved
She watches over orphans, changellings,
Some she shall free, some will be dissolved.
The chords of ancient times come, strike my soul
To th'rhythm of a bustling city full of noise
What was I looking for? What was the goal?
I "fake it 'til I make it", take the poise.
I encounter colourful characters, full of life - to th'brim,
Ghosts from heart-wrenching past emerging - there!
Chances of getting out unscathed are quite slim.
I am resigned to go on - it's only fair!
Those drawn to this line of work are all insane
As for our obsessions? There's none to blame.

The Team

Fringe Day 7 - August 18

Gallivanting in front of me, I see
A man all in red, a lady-in-waiting,
A roguish knight, a prince who's yet to be
Tried & weighted, 'for he's ready to be King;
I see a march. I watched them, determined
To plough through, to carry bravely on
Despite the rejection, the guillotined
Dreams of smile, a word, a nod. All gone!
And yet they don't lose faith, they try & try
They'll surely come & speak t'you if they can
If they see you looking, even if shy -
They'll mobilize. They'll think they've found a fan!
Hell! How I admire this truculent team!
They're the best of them all, better than any dream.

The Other Side

Fringe Day 8 - August 19

It's closing time. A bustling bus goes by,
Carrying festival-goers, tourists,
Outlander fans. I let out a deep sigh -
Nobody's here for us, I get the gist.
We keep on climbing, high, o'er hills and dales,
We cross the cobbled streets, the alleyways,
We climb rocky castles. And if all else fails,
Down to secret bars - so end our days.
We watch the sunset from a terraced house,
Warm-up in a lush backyard at Royal Terrace,
Turn up at whisky tastings to espouse
The warmth of liquid gold, like a caress.
Yet what we long for most, at the end of the day
Is our warm beds and rest - without delay.

The Curtain

Fringe Day 9 - August 20

Standing backstage, I see shadows perform
A strange and silent dance; a mystery.
This is where magic is born, where we conform
Only to the dictats of divinity.
This is where life becomes bigger than itself,
In the shallow breath of a single actor's soul,
This is where shame is put upon a shelf -
It won't be needed now. Can't you hear the call?
This is the empty space waiting for you
To fill it with the world you bring withal
This is where dreams should ring simple & true,
Where there is never a place for another Fall.
Welcome, wanderer, to our woeful wonders -
Hark! We bring our truths on the winds of thunder.

The Silence

Fringe Day 10 - August 21

Listen! Is there something you're missing? Something
Grand, overwhelming, something that's gone
Without a trace. Something to say, or sing,
Something you murmur, once all is said and done.
As I peer through the curtain, I get a glance
At all those faces, transfixed, looking at you -
You've got them in the palm of your hand, in a trance,
They can't do anything but plough on through.
I listen once again - is that a sigh?
Is that a murmur, a cough - something has moved
On th'other side of the curtain, high -
But no. They all remained unmoved.
And then I hear it, clear & high: a cry
Because of you, the words - they learned to fly.

The Audience

Fringe Day 11 - August 22

The smiles, the hugs, the tears, and all at once
Engulf me. Suddenly, I don't know where to start.
We always focus on critics that bounce
Off our confidence. And so they play their part.
We read their words - they pierce through us. We think:
Does all my soul, my work, amount to this?
Maybe we believe them, and our hearts sink
Is there something wrong here, something amiss?
Then once again, once more, an audience comes
Surprised, amazed, aghast, they clap and cheer,
They ring the bells, they bring out all the drums,
And slowly they dismantle all our fear.
We thank you for letting us tell you this story.
Without you there wouldn't be anything to carry.

The Shadows

Fringe Day 12 - August 23

A blast from the past, a crescendo, a mountain to climb
The ebb & flow of our crowd, an endless surprise
We run up & down the hills, the blind leading the blind
We want to tell you our story; a common enterprise
What distinguishes us from our neighbours?
Why should you choose our show?
God knows, we're calling in all of our favours
We want the entire world to come & know
We are not pretending. This is mystic business
This is serious acting, divine playfulness.
We are looking to shatter, to change; not to impress
We are looking to punch & to wake; not to caress.
Above all we believe that what you will see here
Is eternal & sacred, born of love & of fear.

The End

Fringe Day 13 - August 24

Today, I channel the golden gilded butterfly
Who lives an entire life in a day -
Whose frail flap of wings, whose silent cry
Can rebuild whole worlds who were in decay.
The power, the vision, the precision of this spirit
Guides me on & makes me wed my fate
I lose myself in the stage's words, in a minute
It'll all be over; then it'll be too late.
This is the last time the lights turn on
On this particular space, this gathering of souls,
This is the only time we have - to hold on
To each other, before the illusion falls.
We end by her gifting me the most precious of memories:
"This reminds me of the RSC in the seventies."

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