BWW Review: COVER MY TRACKS, Old Vic
Following the success of Dr Seuss's The Lorax during the festive season of 2015-16, and prior to its return this autumn, the creative team have reunited to create an original piece of theatre from the first solo outing by singer-songwriter Charlie Fink (formerly frontman for Noah and the Whale). It plays alongside Woyzeck at the Old Vic prior to a UK and international tour.
Sarah (Jade Anouka) met Frank (Charlie Fink) in a hotel room; she was bringing room service and he was a successful popstar on the window ledge contemplating suicide. In each other they find understanding - two lost souls looking for a purpose in life. After running off performing in their own musical double act, Frank disappears and is presumed dead. The family hold a funeral, but Sarah is not convinced and sets off in search of him, covering almost the entire country in the process.
David Greig's script is full of imagery and, fittingly with the musical interjections, it is almost like poetry at times. A key subject matter in this piece is depression, and Greig handles it with great sensitivity and awareness; putting the unlikely pair together is a reminder that mental illness can affect someone from any walk of life, no matter how successful they are, or how much they've got going for them.
Charlie Fink's compositions are folksy, with clear echoes of Bob Dylan but a modern touch that's uniquely his. The music and story intertwine perfectly, never stepping on each other's toes but rather one enhancing the other. Most are quite slow, beautiful numbers with Fink on acoustic guitar and some string backing - however when Frank and Sarah write "the hit", the audience is treated to a more upbeat, pop track ("I Was Born To Be A Cowboy"), complete with a drum machine, as well as fun props for the performers.
Fink is stronger as a vocalist, however you can absolutely sense his passion for his art in Frank when he explains how he sees music going forward as an art form in the 21st century. He also has fantastic comic timing, particularly when Frank starts considering a move into goat farming...
Jade Anouka proves to be a natural storyteller, immediately engaging with the audience and taking them along on Sarah's journey with her. Not only do you see her pain as she gets closer and closer to the truth, but you feel it too. Anouka combines anger with a desperate melancholy, making Sarah into a very human figure in front of us.
It has been billed as a "modern folk tale", and it absolutely captures that feel in every aspect. From the staging (a simple platform, surrounded by fairy lights, with only a chair and mic stand) to the story tinged with sadness, and the simple and emotive musical numbers. Anouka and Fink are a fine double act, perfectly in sync and with a believable chemistry. A unique theatrical experience for the London stage.
Picture credit: Manuel Harlan