DramaLatitude FestivalMusicReview

Latitude Festival 2017 – Charlie Fink: Cover My Tracks

Writers: Charlie Fink and David Grieg 
Director: Max Webster
Reviewer: Kris Hallett

Well, it’s certainly novel. A one-hour show basically created as a hype machine for former Noah and the Whale frontman Charlie Fink’s new studio album, is certainly a different commercial sell than a couple of million dollar music video. It’s an avenue rarely explored so far in theatre and one could imagine some thrilling results. The Streets album A Grand Don’t Come For Free already has a narrative primed for theatre and could you imagine the bonkers work Thriller could have yielded.

Unfortunate to report then that Cover My Tracks doesn’t really work; as a piece of drama it feels overtly navel gazing and only of interest to those who enjoy their artists tortured and misunderstood. As a chance to encounter Fink’s music from the man himself and encourage album sales, it’s sad to say that the music plays second fiddle to the performance of Rona Morrison who script in hand – replacing the brilliant Jade Anouka who played the role at the Old Vic – is required to carry most of the load.

As long as there have been artists there has been work to document the agony of the misunderstood artistic genius. Here Fink, through the roughly 10 songs he sings and a few lines of (slightly wooden) dialogue portrays ‘she’, an idealistic songwriter, out to write a 21st Century masterpiece but who becomes bitterly disillusioned with the business. Discovered by Morrison’s ‘he’ for the first time at a Premier Inn after a gig on a ledge, she needs to be talked down by this bored hotel concierge. From there typical band adventures occur; gigs in bars, one night stands by audience members bound to drop their pants as soon as they come into the vicinity of this genius and then a monster hit that comes to define them. Soon ‘she’ is gone and ‘he’ goes on a voyage around the British Isles.

Discovered by Morrison’s ‘he’ for the first time at a Premier Inn after a gig on a ledge, she needs to be talked down by this bored hotel concierge. From there typical band adventures occur; gigs in bars, one night stands by audience members bound to drop their pants as soon as they come into the vicinity of this genius and then a monster hit that comes to define them. Soon ‘she’ is gone and ‘he’ goes on a voyage around the British Isles to discover the characters fate.

The switch in gender between the two performers is interesting though both in the writing of playwright David Greig and in performance under the care of Max Webster a case is never strongly made as to why they have done this. Perhaps the gender fluidity is the point. The road trip that occurs in the second half also meanders and, though it does finally answer the questions it asks of itself, it never fully feels satisfactory.

It is an interesting premise but the narrative of an artist misunderstood and belittling the work of the successful commercial world in favour of the difficult misunderstood masterpiece feels old hat. Sometimes removing one’s head from ones posterior is a useful quality to have as an artist. Thank God then for Morrisson, who holds her audience rapt in her role as quasi-narrator. Maybe a show should be written to showcase her talents instead?

Reviewed on 14 July 2017 | Image: Contributed

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