Streamed performance by Henry Filloux-Bennett, based on the book by Jonathan Coe.
In these strange times, when theatres have been dark for many more months than any of us could have predicted, it’s a total joy to hear of a new work streaming online. Based on the original book by Jonathan Coe, Henry Filloux-Bennett has gifted the world with What A Carve Up!, a piece of work which is not exactly theatre, or film, or a radio play. Instead, What A Carve Up is a melting pot of all genres, really. At times it feels more like a Netflix true crime special, which is not a bad thing at all.
The show starts with detailing the historical murders of the upper class Winshaw family. The culprit was one Michael Owen, a writer with a grudge to bear, it seems. Owen’s son, Raymond, played by Alfred Enoch, thinks otherwise, and recounts the past as he has pieced it together, with flashbacks, archive recordings, and eye witness accounts. Meanwhile, in the present day, the very prickly Josephine Winshaw-Eaves (brilliantly played by Fiona Button), tells her side of the story to interviewer Tamzin Outhwaite.
A co-production between The Barn theatre in Cirencester, the Lawrence Batley theatre in Huddersfield and the New Wolsey theatre in Ipswich, What A Carve Up features very few cast members actually on screen, but the line-up for voice work (which the actors recorded at home), is stellar. Stephen Fry, Derek Jacobi, Celia Imrie, and Griff Rhys Jones are just some of the big names taking part in this work which is every bit as high quality as anything you’d find on a stage…were any theatres actually open.
What A Carve Up is an enjoyable, witty satire, cleverly updated by Bennett for the modern age, with plenty of jabs at the current political scene, including Trump, Dominic Cummings, and the pandemic. It also serves as a great reminder (if one were needed), of the pure escapism theatre can bring.