York Drama Soc’s Für Elise might well be the best example of a show at this year’s Fringe achieving affectation – and a little bit of Festival buzz – through deft execution of a simple concept. This hour-long Parisian fairy tale, told through mime and a splash of subtitling, is fragile, funny and lovable – a refreshingly honest face in all the irony and allegory of the world of Fringe theatre.
Francois, a mime artist down on his luck, is hapless and hopelessly in love with Elise, the unavailable, unobtainable passer-by. At the heart of the play sits this distance, brought to life by the hustle and bother of his daily life and the sad stillness of her’s. Both lead actors manage to convey range within the parameters of the play-world, which is no mean feat in a black-and-white land made entirely of mime.
However it’s the supporting cast – something of a misnomer, given that they’re rarely off-stage – and superb direction thereof, that really give the piece its kick. Assembling fireplaces, rowboats, balconies and prison cells, taking on the task of bothersome dog, disgruntled wedding guest and mirror reflection, the energy and concentration of these four or five everymen and women provides the zing that takes the production up a level, from sweet and cutesy to knife-sharp and charismatic.
The end-note of the piece is its weakest and doesn’t quite provide a satisfying resolution, but there’s so much fun had getting there that this doesn’t detract from the consistently successful telling of an entirely endearing story. If you’re looking for something tongue-in-cheek and charming to start your day at the Fringe – not least with a great classical score – look no further than Für Elise.