Tag Archives: Dervla Kirwan

What a Carve Up!



What A Carve up!

What a Carve Up!

Online via whatacarveup.com

Reviewed – 31st October 2020



“a potent mix of Agatha Christie and Michael Moore that thrillingly keeps you on your toes”


Minutes after watching the evening News Special featuring the Prime Minister declaring ‘Lockdown 2’, I switched off to watch the online stream theatre production of “What A Carve Up!”. The timing is perfectly apposite, not just because this production is one of the finest examples of the way theatre is having to adapt to reach audiences in the face of a pandemic, but also because the presentation, the treatment and the execution of the story is brilliantly and almost painfully relevant, forcing you to think twice (at the very least) about where we are, and how did we get here?

A co-production between the Barn Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre and New Wolsey Theatre, the show is cleverly constructed as a docudrama, based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Coe published in the early nineties. The original novel, which was hailed as one of the finest English satires at the time, focuses on the fictitious Winshaw family: a dynasty that embodies absolutely everything that is politically and socially corrupt. A family that represents the narrow, self-serving interests of those in power whose influence in (or rather control of) banking, the media, agriculture, healthcare, the arms trade and the arts (the list goes on) ultimately leads to the bloodbath in which they perish; their individual violent deaths reflecting their particular professional sins.

That is not a spoiler! It is merely the starting point. Henry Filloux-Bennett picks up on the story thirty years later with razor-sharp insight and the benefit of hindsight. One of Coe’s novel’s protagonists was Michael Owen, a writer who is the prime suspect in the murder investigation. In Filloux-Bennett’s update the focus is on his son Raymond as he questions the evidence. Alfred Enoch plays Raymond, stealing the show with a captivating portrayal of a dispossessed son, robbed of truth and justice as well as family. He narrates his story straight to camera in the style of a YouTube podcast. In tandem, director Tamara Harvey cuts to a present-day televised interview with the only surviving Winshaw family member. Tamzin Outhwaite is chillingly cool as the interviewer who, on camera, surreptitiously conveys her dislike for her subject; a stunningly honest and believable performance from Fiona Button who portrays the dewy-eyed glamour that ultimately fails to conceal a hard pragmatism inherited from her forebears. The rest of the piece is filled with the ‘who’s who’ of theatre delivering cameos, including Sir Derek Jacobi, Stephen Fry, Sharon D Clarke, Griff Rhys Jones, Robert Bathurst, Celia Imrie, Dervla Kirwan, Catrin Aaron, Jonathan Bailey, Jamie Ballard, Samuel Barnett, Jack Dixon, Rebecca Front, Julian Harries, James McNicholas and Lizzie Muncey.

In an hour and three quarters the subject matter is in danger of being a little stretched but never does this feel over long, and the frequent use of repetition, flashback and re-takes only strengthens the narrative and the message. “What A Carve Up!” is a riveting piece of online theatre; a potent mix of Agatha Christie and Michael Moore that thrillingly keeps you on your toes. The strands are sometimes complicated but eventually weave together beautifully to reveal the whole picture. And it is frightening. Coe’s book is a political satire that in Filloux-Bennett’s hands is just as resonant as ever. If not more so. The Winshaw’s were the epitome of what went wrong back then in a time of ideological change. Whatever your persuasion, this production seems to indicate that we now live in an age of political shamelessness, cruelty and indifference that the Winshaws could only have dreamed of. The skilful impartiality of the subtext is a credit to the writing and the performances. At no point are we coerced into a way of thinking, but the audience, though in isolation across the nation, are probably moved in similar ways.

This production is unmissable. A triumph. Delightfully entertaining and just as thought provoking. Occasionally hard going, but worth hanging on to the bitter end. The closing lines, delivered by Alfred Enoch, are uncannily and deliberately timely. And indescribably heart-breaking.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans


What a Carve Up!

Online via whatacarveup.com until 29th November


Recently reviewed by Jonathan:
A Separate Peace | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
The Understudy | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
Godspell Online in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | August 2020
Henry V | ★★★★ | The Maltings | August 2020
St Anne Comes Home | ★★★★ | St Paul’s Church Covent Garden | August 2020
A Hero Of Our Time | ★★★★ | Stone Nest | September 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2020
The Off Key | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | October 2020
Buyer and Cellar | ★★★★ | Above the Stag | October 2020
The Great Gatsby | ★★★★★ | Immersive LDN | October 2020


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train

Young Vic

Jesus Hopped The A Train

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train

Young Vic

Reviewed – 20 February 2019



“the brilliance of this production is that the answers don’t just come from the words; every aspect and element of the show feels relevant and important”


Kate Hewitt’s production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ ‘Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train’ is bold and philosophical, with moving performances and genius staging that elevates this show to exciting heights.

Angel Cruz (played with tender fierceness by Ukweli Roach) has wound up in jail, accused of attempted murder after shooting a cult leader called Reverend Kim. Alongside the threatening watch of prison officer Valdez (Joplin Sibtain), and the guidance of his lawyer Mary Jane Hanrahan (Dervla Kirwan), Angel strikes up a complex relationship with serial killer, and fellow prisoner Lucius Jenkins (Oberon K.A. Adjepong) – a relationship built on debate and argument surrounding the nature of good, evil and, indeed, God.

The opening line of Guirgis’ play sets the tone, as Angel prays, “Our Father, who art in heaven – Howard be thy name.” The moment is witty and heart wrenching in equal measure as Angel desperately tries to remember the correct words. The play continues in this vein. The dialogue is an absolute powerhouse and the real force behind this work; it’s clever, snappy, and fast paced, becoming so beautifully intricate in the sounds and nuances that are created. The actors really let themselves fly as they attack their dialogue and rattle off their monologues, keeping the performance exciting and engaging. In one particularly impressive monologue, Adjepong’s Lucius exercises whilst addressing his religious beliefs; the actor’s energy doesn’t falter once as he performs countless press ups, squats and on the spot sprints all the while delivering his speech. These scenes are separated by blackouts and a score of dramatic drum beats that sound like gunfire – they are thrilling and tense and help support the tone of the piece.

The staging, too, keeps the show feeling fresh, exploiting both movement and stillness to full effect. The auditorium is in the round; the stage is created as a strip cutting through the audience, with glass doors sliding along it. The simple fluidity of this design (Magda Willi) introduces an interesting dichotomy to the show that reflects the inherent sentiment of the play. On the one hand, it creates a sense of openness and, ironically, freedom, whilst on the other hand it creates an inescapable claustrophobia. The transparent glass doors evince our all-seeing nature whilst at the same time producing the actors own reflections in a way that reminds us of their entrapment. They can’t escape prison; they can’t escape themselves.

The play implores us to question humanity and freedom, good and evil, religion and atheism. We are drawn to the charming, God-fearing, comical Lucius despite his psychopathic nature and are left to wonder how we assess our morality and whether we can ever truly find redemption. Whilst Guirgis’ script is truly wonderful, the brilliance of this production is that the answers don’t just come from the words; every aspect and element of the show feels relevant and important. Overall, this is a really well thought out, fantastic piece of theatre.


Reviewed by Tobias Graham

Photography by Johan Persson


Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train

Young Vic until 30th March


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Fun Home | ★★★★★ | June 2018


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