Silence S’il Vous Plaît (Illusion, Coffee and Poetry‘s offering for the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival) tells the story of two street mimes who fall in love over the course of one magical, romantic evening in Paris. Imagine a kind of silent-film version of Roman Holiday, but with queer mimes.
Of all the shows playing at Fringe this year, I was not expecting to be so utterly destroyed by mime girls in love. Especially when it started out with finger-guns.
Claudette (Melanie Petriw) is performing on the streets of Paris when Jinxy (Robyn Barnes), another mime, starts to muscle in with her giant invisible bag of tricks. When their initial antagonism turns to flirtation, the two mimes run off to have a first date to end all first dates. Together, they explore Paris, discover all the joys of the city, and fall in love along the way.
The show is fairly simple in design: a lone streetlamp graces the stage, while the rest of the scenes are mimed by Petriw and Barnes. Music filters in and out, whimsical and appropriately French when it’s there, pointedly silent when it’s not. Petriw and Barnes utterly carry the show with their hilarious physical comedy, expressive characterization, and—perhaps most importantly—tender, sweet chemistry.
There’s such joy to be found in these two talented, versatile performers moving from goofball comedy to a contemplative romance. The two manage to build a completely believable, layered romance without saying a single world. As Claudette and Jinxy’s relationship grows stronger, they flirt and blush, share their excitement with each other, cast sidelong glances and fumble hands together. All of it manages to avoid being overly cute or cloying, which is a real testament to the comedic talents of both actors.
Instead, the show is really all about how being in love changes the world all around you. It’s also about how those changes stay with you, even if the object of that love is only with you for a night. Without spoiling, the show’s ending manages to explore these things in a surprisingly complex—if somewhat ambiguous—way, which is particularly impressive when the show is (mostly) silent.
With the world in such a beleaguered state, there is something unaccountably moving in the sight of these two girls building sandcastles and kissing under the stars. The sheer, simple joy of it—and the way that joy affects and alters the both of them permanently—hit me in an utterly unexpected place, and I couldn’t help the rush of joy I felt in return. At 45 minutes, Silence S’il Vous Plaît is a brief affair, but it packs a lot of emotional punch in that short time.
Silence S’il Vous Plaît is a mime show, but it’s also a romance of the soul, a screwball comedy and a fairy tale. If even one of those things appeals to you, then there’s something here to grab you. Powerful and understated, this show is certainly one of the Fringe Festival’s hidden gems.
- Silence S’il Vous Plaît plays at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. (79 St. George St.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Wednesday July 5th, 08:15 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 05:15 pm
- Monday July 10th, 01:00 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 01:45 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 07:30 pm
- Friday July 14th, 11:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 01:45 pm
Photo of Melanie Petriw by Mackenzie Clark.