Director: Max Webster
Music: Charlie Fink
Writer: David Greig
Reviewer: Andrea Allen
What does it take to disappear? And what happens to those who are left behind? Cover My Tracks is a powerhouse collaboration between former Noah and the Whale front-man and songwriter Charlie Fink, playwright David Greig and director Max Webster. A sparse set-up features two performers, a mic and a guitar coupling songs from Fink’s new album with Greig’s bleak and sometimes darkly comic script about a troubled songwriter who vanishes into thin air, leaving his bandmate/partner behind.
Cover My Tracks brazenly sheds light on the anger and rage that partners grief, particularly alongside missing persons cases when there is no body to grieve over and no certainty that there is indeed a loss of life to acknowledge. In a world where it can often seem that even the most repulsive of us are spoken posthumously as though we are a saint, David Greig’s expletive-laden script is a refreshingly raw and honest account of the sometimes in-pretty reality of grief, where highlighting a deceased persons flaws is no longer tantamount to heresy,
In the tale of this troubled musician there are echoes of Richey Edwards, the Manic Street Preachers lyricist and rhythm guitarist who disappeared in 1995. Though legally declared dead in 2008, his family state that they’ve still not given up hope on finding him alive. The infinite sense of limbo between grief and hope spanning two decades comes to mind in Fink’s partner’s tortured monologues, where the only thing keeping her going is knowing that someone needs to stay alive to feed the dog.
Gender is a somewhat fluid concept throughout, which while an interesting angle, proves a confusing and underexplored level in practice. Charlie Fink’s character is referred to as ‘her’ in the blurb, though other characters who refer to him as ‘he’ and a coat of his which the female performer wears is a man’s jacket which swamps her smaller frame. In another instance she refers to a gig where she wore a tux and Fink wore a cocktail dress, and both characters sleep with people of both genders. Coupled with varying use of pronouns, this evokes some confusion. Perhaps the intent is the sense that this could apply to anyone, or an attempt to conjure up the confusing and disorientating haze that overshadows the loss of a loved one. Over-shadowing all of this is the argument that gender and sexuality are social concepts that should be disregarded altogether, though broaching this issue even briefly in an already complex piece detracts rather than enriches its central themes.
It’s frustrating that a twee romanticised ending undermines an otherwise thoughtful, introspective and lyrically skilful piece, while also sending the somewhat ethically cloudy message that taking your own life can be a celebrated act of creativity in itself, an issue for which the Netflix show Thirteen Reasons Why has recently met similar criticism. A glossy, romanticised, near Instagram-worthy finish seems an incongruous ending to an otherwise gritty, bleak and immediate exploration of what it is to be the loved one left behind.
Runs until 16 September 2017 | Image: Contributed