REVIEW: What A Carve Up!, Barn Theatre (Online)

What starts as a simple Who Dunnit mystery transforms into a complex and fascinating insight into a family’s deepest and darkest secrets.

Based on Jonathan Coe’s novel, What a Carve Up! doesn’t feel like a traditional murder mystery – thanks to Henry Filloux-Bennett’s deeply fascinating and engaging adaptation which keeps the audience guessing right to the very end.

Slickly brought to life, What a Carve Up! concentrates on the corrupt and distinctly unlikeable family the Winshaws, who were found murdered in their family home in January 1991. The prime suspect was renowned author Michael Owen who it is claimed hated the family enough to kill them.

Fast forward the years, and his son Raymond is not convinced that his father was indeed the killer and as the story unravels deep and dark secrets of the family make it clear that these series of murders wasn’t as straight forward as it first appears.

Featuring a starry cast (mainly in voiceovers), Tamara Harvey’s gripping and psychologically focused production really captures Henry Filloux-Bennett’s intense take on the story – even if it does become repetitive in places particularly towards the end which can make it lose some of the focus.

Visually it has been carefully put together, splitting between a 2020 interview with the Winshaw’s last surviving member Josephine and a journalist re-examining the case and Michael Owen’s son Raymond presenting his own research and being the central narrator. The use of different documentary style of shots and interviews means that the audience has to be thoroughly engaged to keep up with what is being unveiled. It is always stylish to watch – even if a lot of reliance is placed on what is being said rather than any particular bits of action.

At an hour and forty minutes long, it does demand a lot of your attention and focus, but thanks to certain performances, it is always compelling to watch unfold. In particular, Alfred Enoch as the central narrator Raymond offers a confident and sincere performance. Always calm and in control in his search for justice for his father, it is a nicely judged characterisation, that has touches of poignancy – particularly as he reads out a letter from his father to his mother.

Elsewhere, there is a nicely sharp performance from Fiona Button as the snobbish and prejudiced Josephine who is determined to remain evasive of Tamsin Outhwaite’s equally sharp and cynical journalist looking for the truth. There are some also some lovely voice-over appearances from the likes of Derek Jacobi as the warm and immensely grounded Findlay Onyx and Rebecca Front as Hilary Winshaw that really add to the depth of the production.

Overall, this production of What a Carve Up! is immensely enjoyable to watch unfold – but doesn’t need to repeat itself quite so much for the audience to understand what is happening as new bits of evidence comes to light. A refreshingly unique way to present a murder mystery.

By Emma Clarendon

What a Carve Up is available to watch online until the 29th November.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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