Frankly Winehouse

Ashleigh Kreveld Frankly WinehouseFrankly Winehouse is a cabaret by writer / performer Ashleigh Kreveld. To steal a melody from Ms Winehouse’s song Rehab: You ask if it was worth the effort, and I shrug No, No, No.

The show intended to be “A frank encounter with the late great Amy Winehouse” told through her words and songs. Ms Kreveld has some vocal talent, but my enjoyment of this was diminished by the unevenness of Frankly Winehouse.

Kreveld is in the early stages of a performing career. Unfortunately for her, much of her audience will have seen many shows by young performers that suffer from the same fundamental flaws. A good proportion of this audience will find it dispiriting to see this pattern repeat itself again in Frankly Winehouse.

The chief cause for this result is a performer trying to stretch themselves outside of their area of expertise. Whilst Kreveld gave a capable vocal performance and solid imitation of Amy Winehouse, the show labours under the burdens of indifferent writing and direction.

If Winehouse came back from beyond to speak to us, I would expect her to have a very clear idea of what she wanted to say. This version of Amy seemed to have more of a ramble that wasn’t always very instructive. One extended monologue reminded me of the Vicky Pollard character from Little Britain. At other times there was merely a few words between songs.

Input from an experienced writer would ensure that jokes had enough context to land well, whereas currently they fall flat. They would filter the stories, so that they had a clear purpose and were appropriately paired with the upcoming song. A writer would also ensure that the story was coherent; at times the piece felt like Winehouse was randomly picking topics out of her beehive to talk about.

Collaboration with a director would ensure that Kreveld knew when to drop the brassy and breezy delivery and give us a chance to feel something for Winehouse. The troubled star was dead at 27 following periods of alcohol and drug dependence, and depression. We should have felt the tragedy of the loss of her life and talent more acutely.

Kreveld fell into another trap for a newish performer in not paying adequate attention to technical matters. Frankly Winehouse had periods where Kreveld didn’t speak very clearly as her words were strangled by her assumed accent. Further, at times the volume of the keyboard accompanist drowned out her singing.

It didn’t seem as if there had been a thorough sound check on this review night, which further eroded the benefit of the show’s best feature, Kreveld’s voice. She also seemed to lack awareness of where the lighting was positioned, spending much time just on the fringe of its span. Attention to other details was far better. With beehive hairdo, arms and torso adorned with simulated tattoos, and polka-dot dress, Kreveld looked the part.

Kreveld lists a quote in praise of her show: “the perfect cabaret”. If we’re going to speak frankly as the show intended, at this point in time it is only a middling cabaret. I’ve spent some years repeatedly making the same sorts of comments in criticising shows. I strongly believe that the uncritical reviews some artists cling to for their PR are taking them into an artistic dead end. As nice as a rave is, it won’t improve the quality of a young performer’s show as much as even a little scrutiny by an “outside eye”.

In Kreveld’s case, I suspect such an independent perspective would have remedied obvious flaws in Frankly Winehouse. This would have lead to it opening in a greatly improved state, and receiving far more favourable feedback as a result.

Frankly Winehouse
Whole Lotta Love Bar, 520 Lygon Street, Brunswick
Performance: Wednesday 3 August 2016 – 6.30pm
Season: 3 – 7 August 2016

Image: Ashleigh Kreveld as Amy Winehouse (supplied)

Review: Jason Whyte