Directed by Rupert Goold
The Duke of York's Theatre
For a show about the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, one would expect to spend two hours in the theatre being bombarded with hate-filled propaganda. Instead, Ink provides a balanced, and almost empathic, look at how Murdoch and his henchmen changed the game for modern-day reporting.
Charting the rise of The Sun newspaper, Ink follows businessman Rupert Murdoch ( Bertie Carvel) and editor Larry Lamb (Richard Coyle) as they restructure modern-day journalism. In an attempt to be the best selling newspaper in Britain, Lamb and Murdoch steep to new levels in order to see the papers fly off the presses - but at what cost?
James Graham, one of the most exciting playwrights for modern themes, has crafted yet another thrilling, quick-witted, and controversial drama. His smart dialogue and cheeky tone creates a brilliant atmosphere that makes one imagine they are literally within the page of The Sun paper. But what's most surprising about Graham's play is his unwillingness to blame the downturn of respectable journalism on Murdoch himself, but rather on the egos of power-hungry journalists. Graham spends little time psychoanalyzing the ringmaster and, instead, draws on those most desperate to impress. He ensures that the giant overpowering hand of Murdoch is always present, but he's unafraid to put the blame where blame is due. Graham's play is effortlessly clever, fast-paced, and prevalent; it is the perfect piece for today's "fake news" era.
Rupert Goold brought Graham's fantastic play to life with stunning staging and design. Bunny Christie's multitiered set reimagines Murdoch's climb to the top, as he leaves behind the true instigators of the story. It's a fantastic and clever set that brings many layers and dimensions to The Sun's newsroom, while also exploring how much fun it must be starting an empire. Goold also cleverly pulls history into this stylized retelling by projecting the actual headlines and front pages from the play's events. But the most striking element of Goold's staging is the bold and evocative lighting. Styled almost like a classic film noir, Neil Austin's lighting design creates the feeling of the dingy and unkempt atmosphere of an underground tabloid newsroom.
The final element that perfectly ties Ink together is its outstanding cast, led by the surprisingly charming Bertie Carvel. Carvel is a natural in the role of Murdoch. He brilliantly captures the effortless ease of the infamous mogul, making the highly detested character almost likable. He brings a thrilling energy and charm to the mogul, that only an empathetic actor could capture. His presence is scarce throughout the show; but when he is present, he dominates the stage, forcing all eyes on him - just like his real-life counterpart. Most impressing about Carvel's performance is his body language. Carvel speaks mostly with his hands, mimicking perfectly the awkward and unsettling demeanor of Murdoch. Richard Coyle is equally as impressive as the cold and stern editor Larry Lamb. His performance is reminiscent of sleazy tabloid journalists, and his excessive pride and raging ego makes him unstoppable and even more unlikable than Murdoch (if that's possible).
Ink plays at The Duke of York's Theatre until 6 January 2018