Review: What A Carve Up! (online)

With a second lockdown imminent and the entertainment venues that had re-opened forced to close once again, digital theatre will continue to be an important part of our lives for the foreseeable future. Thankfully the Barn Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre and the New Wolsey Theatre have got us covered with their new online production of What A Carve Up!

Written by Henry Filloux-Bennett this digital production is based on Jonathan Coe’s satirical 1994 novel and delves into the murders of one of the most corrupt, powerful and toxic (fictional) families in the country. Thirty years ago six members of the Winshaw family were murdered in their home. The family members, who ‘make the Murdochs look like the Waltons’, were involved in everything from controlling the media and healthcare to the arms race, and each was murdered in a particularly gruesome way. The number one suspect was prolific author Michael Owen, who was commissioned to write a book about the family and disappeared shortly after the murders. Now in the present day a journalist (Tamzin Outhwaite) interviews surviving family member Josephine Winshaw-Eaves (Fiona Button) in response to a new book about the Winshaws, while Michael’s son Raymond (Alfred Enoch) takes a close look through the evidence to try find out what really happened on that fateful evening. 

Henry Filloux-Bennett brings Jonathan Coe’s book bang up to date with references to Meghan Markle, the phone-hacking scandal and the Covid-19 pandemic dotted throughout the production. Tamara Harvey’s skilful direction uses a number of styles to tell this gripping story, resulting in a production which is part Netflix true crime documentary, part whodunnit. The dual narrative features scenes with Raymond which are presented in the format of a YouTube blog, interspersed with clips from Josephine’s interview, offering a different perspective of the evidence. This footage is combined with photographs, archive footage and voiceovers to produce a quality production which builds suspense brilliantly right from the get-go. The use of flashbacks and retakes are a clever addition, little Easter eggs for any budding detectives in the audience. 

The cast of What A Carve Up! reads like a who’s who of British acting talent, with the likes of  Sir Derek Jacobi, Stephen Fry, Sharon D. Clarke, Jonathan Bailey, Dervla Kirwan and Celia Imrie all appearing in the form of voiceovers as characters such as Owens’ friend, his publisher, the detective assigned to the murder case and a private detective (played by the brilliantly eccentric Jacobi). Alfred Enoch is mesmerising as Raymond, a man who’s desperate to seek justice for his father, combing through the information he’s collected in detail. At times the anger Raymond feels shines through, while at other times he’s sad and distressed at the details he discovers. His vulnerable side also comes to the forefront, and he’s totally believable as an amateur film-maker, hesitant at first as he re-starts his videos. Tamzin Outhwaite puts in a strong performance as the journalist, exercising amazing restraint as she interviews the hideous Josephine Winshaw-Eaves, played by the outstanding Fiona Button, who is at times almost too realistic in her portrayal of the heiress. She’s brilliantly dismissive and outrageous (at one moment wearing a ‘Pussies for Trump, Let’s Grab Four More Years’ t-shirt), awfully spoilt and sadly not too unrecognisable from some people in today’s society – she’s the character you love to hate (and you really do hate her) 

With a second lockdown imminent and the entertainment venues that had re-opened forced to close once again, digital theatre will continue to be an important part of our lives for the foreseeable future. Thankfully the Barn Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre and the New Wolsey Theatre have got us covered with their new online production of What A Carve Up!

Written by Henry Filloux-Bennett this digital production is based on Jonathan Coe’s satirical 1994 novel and delves into the murders of one of the most corrupt, powerful and toxic (fictional) families in the country. Thirty years ago six members of the Winshaw family were murdered in their home. The family members, who ‘make the Murdochs look like the Waltons’, were involved in everything from controlling the media and healthcare to the arms race, and each was murdered in a particularly gruesome way. The number one suspect was prolific author Michael Owen, who was commissioned to write a book about the family and disappeared shortly after the murders. Now in the present day a journalist (Tamzin Outhwaite) interviews surviving family member Josephine Winshaw-Eaves (Fiona Button) in response to a new book about the Winshaws, while Michael’s son Raymond (Alfred Enoch) takes a close look through the evidence to try find out what really happened on that fateful evening. 

Henry Filloux-Bennett brings Jonathan Coe’s book bang up to date with references to Meghan Markle, the phone-hacking scandal and the Covid-19 pandemic dotted throughout the production. Tamara Harvey’s skilful direction uses a number of styles to tell this gripping story, resulting in a production which is part Netflix true crime documentary, part whodunnit. The dual narrative features scenes with Raymond which are presented in the format of a YouTube blog, interspersed with clips from Josephine’s interview, offering a different perspective of the evidence. This footage is combined with photographs, archive footage and voiceovers to produce a quality production which builds suspense brilliantly right from the get-go. The use of flashbacks and retakes are a clever addition, little Easter eggs for any budding detectives in the audience. 

The cast of What A Carve Up! reads like a who’s who of British acting talent, with the likes of  Sir Derek Jacobi, Stephen Fry, Sharon D. Clarke, Jonathan Bailey, Dervla Kirwan and Celia Imrie all appearing in the form of voiceovers as characters such as Owens’ friend, his publisher, the detective assigned to the murder case and a private detective (played by the brilliantly eccentric Jacobi). Alfred Enoch is mesmerising as Raymond, a man who’s desperate to seek justice for his father, combing through the information he’s collected in detail. At times the anger Raymond feels shines through, while at other times he’s sad and distressed at the details he discovers. His vulnerable side also comes to the forefront, and he’s totally believable as an amateur film-maker, hesitant at first as he re-starts his videos. Tamzin Outhwaite puts in a strong performance as the journalist, exercising amazing restraint as she interviews the hideous Josephine Winshaw-Eaves, played by the outstanding Fiona Button, who is at times almost too realistic in her portrayal of the heiress. She’s brilliantly dismissive and outrageous (at one moment wearing a ‘Pussies for Trump, Let’s Grab Four More Years’ t-shirt), awfully spoilt and sadly not too unrecognisable from some people in today’s society – she’s the character you love to hate (and you really do hate her) 

With a running time of 105 minutes there’s a danger that a production like this could lag, but the beauty of What A Carve Up! is that it never veers off course. This is a polished production which skilfully builds suspense throughout and culminates in an ending which is both thought-provoking and a chilling reflection of the world we’re currently living in. An incredibly bold and creative reimagining of an award-winning story, What A Carve Up! is a gripping and powerful thriller that’s sure to captivate and is certainly not to be missed. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What A Carve Up! is streaming until 29 November.

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