Cover My Tracks continues at The Old Vic, London until 17 June.
Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩
Cover My Tracks is the first studio album of former Noah and the Whale frontman Charlie Fink. In something of a novel presentation, the album is being staged as a two-hander piece of ‘gig theatre’ with Fink treading The Old Vic boards alongside actress Jade Anouka.
Whatever you might call it, it’s certainly not a musical – Anouka sticks to the acting, mostly, and Fink hardly ‘treads’ at all, being firmly planted on a stool with his guitar for most of the 70-minute show. It’s theatre in its most pared back form, with live music merely augmenting the storytelling.
With the lightest of touches, Max Webster directs David Greig’s book, which is a first-hand account of Sarah (Anouka) and her search for her musician friend Frank (Fink) who’s gone AWOL after enjoying some success with a one-hit wonder.
Frank has committed suicide, apparently, and a grief-stricken Sarah, struggling to come to terms with his absence, goes on a journey to discover what really happened.
Frank is played by Fink in his first ever ‘acting’ role. Fink/Frank – a nominative coincidence or is there an autobiographical aspect to this? – provides a near-continuous musical counterpoint to Sarah, who tells her side of the story through dramatic prose, while Fink presents Frank’s version of events in song. It’s a nice conceit, beautifully realised.
This spare, meditative piece, which has a strong folk influence and resounds with Noah and the Whale’s indie folk vibe, has a suitably simple staging, with the barest of lighting design (nevertheless effectively employed by Lee Curran) and no set whatsoever. It has a relaxed, homely feel – a chamber piece that feels like you’re entertaining this talented duo in your living room.
Fink’s acting is so light as to be non-existent, although as the moody, melancholic Frank, he’s probably not hitting far from the mark. Thanks to Anouka’s impassioned contribution – she gives a truly captivating performance – there are just about enough emotional dynamics for the piece to have life.
For me, though, the music lacks sufficient variety to be theatrically engaging. I don’t want to sound like my Dad, but to my ear it all sounded the same: a minimalist, melancholic, ripple – not unpleasant, and certainly not without merit – that would be better suited to background study music than to the stage.
Fink has an interesting voice – he sounds like a youthful Lou Reed, even down to the slightly off-key pitching – and he’s clearly a talented guitarist and songwriter, but such was the relaxing, soporific nature of the music, I struggled to stay awake (which might have also been due to the 10pm start).
I’m glad that The Old Vic is making the effort with these experimental late nights, which could well attract a new, younger audience to the theatre. But in this case, I suspect that Cover My Tracks is ultimately one for the fans of Noah and the Whale. On saying that, with top price tickets at just £17.50, you might find it worth a punt.
Tickets for Cover My Tracks at The Old Vic are available HERE.