I wanted to see INK because it starred Jonny Lee Miller. rtb wanted to see it because it starred Bertie Carvel. And we managed to bring peg along with us. Mrs. Devereaux unfortunately was ill and could not make it. We had tickets for the center of the last row of the balcony.
The 2-hour play opens with Rupert Murdoch (Carvel) and Larry Lamb (Miller) on a dark stage. We can hear them but we can’t see them. Murdoch wants Lamb to tell him a story. Lamb says that a good story has the who, what, where, and when. Eventually they each get a spotlight and as Lamb gets to each word a big W lights up on stage. We missed one of the Ws because it was on top of the stage set – why do set designers and directors not care about the people who are sitting in the cheap seats? I once saw a production of Don Giovanni at the Met, where the best scene (the statue of his father comes alive) all happened upstage and those of us in the balcony could not see a thing.
Anyway, the final W – why. Lamb and Murdoch are having lunch and Lamb explains to Murdoch that once you give people the why, the story is over and they are no longer interested.
It is 1969 in London and Murdoch has purchased a failing paper, The Sun. Larry Lamb used to work for the more popular tabloid, The Mirror as a senior sub-editor (which sold The Sun to Murdoch). Lamb was working class and even though that is who those papers marketed themselves to, they were run by the elite and Lamb would never make it very far up the ladder. Murdoch was offering Lamb a chance to be the editor.
The set does not change and stands in for both papers and various restaurants and clubs – all on Fleet Street. It is a pyramid of desks and chairs and filing cabinets and even a toilet (not used, thank god) with openings in various places for people to come out, comment, and retreat. Lights are used to seem like molten type that is sent down the chute. There is a nice use of lighting throughout the play used for emphasis and effect. There are also screens around the top that change depending on the action happening in the play. There is a hole downstage where a desk or restaurant table rises up. Sometimes the hole was left open and I was always afraid someone would fall in.
Lamb hires reporters who have been ignored or have retired to help him run The Sun and he promises it will overtake The Mirror – considered an unbelievable promise. The tabloid gave us the topless Page 3 model. And it is the start of Murdoch’s media empire moving from Australia to England and then the US. There is a fun dance number as Lamb recruits each reporter and they dance/march and sing across the stage. What could have been a very dry story about the rise of The Sun is instead funny, fun, and very entertaining.
Murdoch originally pushes Lamb and then actually tries to reign in Lamb several times but Lamb shows Murdoch that the more outrageous the better. On this stage, Lamb is the person who we today would think of as Murdoch. Lamb has a conscience that disappears and then Murdoch has a conscience and then his goes away. Hindsight allows the play’s author to let Murdoch and others see into the future and the change of news to infotainment to pure entertainment.
The play is more Lamb’s story than it is Murdoch’s although Carvel has a brilliant turn when Murdoch is interviewed on TV.
Ink plays an important role, of course. And there is spilled ink all over the floor and over desk edges and eventually on Lamb’s hands and shirt when he hammers type after the printers refuse to do so because of moral reasons. Ink also “spills” down the back screens between scenes.
James Graham wrote a brilliant play and Rupert Goold did an excellent job with his direction. Everyone in the play was wonderful. The rest of the cast is David Wilson Barnes (Brian McConnell), Bill Buell (Frank Nicklin/Percy Roberts), Andrew Durand (Beverly/Christopher Timothy),Eden Marryshow (Ray Mills/Lee Howard), Colin McPhillamy (Sir Alick/Chapel Father), Erin Neufer (Anna Murdoch/Diana/Chrissie/Apprentice), Kevin Pariseau (Bench Hand/TV Host), Rana Roy (Stephanie Rahn), Michael Siberry (Hugh Cudlipp), Tara Summers (Joyce Hopkirk/Muriel McKay), and the ensemble is Ian Bedford, William Connell, Christopher McHale, Jessica Naimy (dance captain), Daniel Yearwood, and Kelly Levy was stage manager.
Scenic and costume design was by Bunny Christie, lighting design by Neil Austin, original music and sound design by Adam Cork, projection design by Jon Driscoll, choreography and movement direction by Lynne Page, dialect coach was Ben Furey, and music director was Julie McBride.
Photos taken from their Facebook site:
By Carene Lydia Lopez