"well-timed commentary on media powers"
by Jen Soame for remotegoat on 28/06/17

James Graham couldn’t have been timelier with this script for it to evoke so many comparisons between Britain of the 60’s and that of 2017. Ink tells the story of Rupert Murdoch (Bertie Carvel) and his continued media expansion through the buying of his first daily newspaper The Sun from the Mirror Group in 1969. He challenges underachieving, but full of potential, Larry Lamb (Richard Coyle) to become Editor of a new form of tabloid that refreshes the tired market and speaks to the true people of Britain and encourages him to blow out all Fleet Street convention to make it happen.

The task is ambitious but Murdoch exudes confidence, determination and an insatiable drive for power and Lamb picks this up with ease, striving only to achieve and to win. And to win, somebody else must lose.

Growing up in the world-dominating latter stages of Murdoch’s empire, this was extremely interesting for someone in my generation to see his impact in the growing stages. In Ink he is not portrayed as an all-out controlling monster but instead as an excitable businessman looking for growth and market domination. What proved uncomfortable watching was his effect on Lamb who let greed overtake him in return for moral standing and even he struggles with identifying where his lines were that he should not cross. No doubt that later he likely rued his comment of ‘if we’re funny we can get away with anything’ when paper content, and mood of the play, turned extremely dark in the second act.

The Sun started with noble enough intentions (aside from intending to dominate the tabloid sales at the expense of other papers and colleagues). It was to be a paper for the masses and to mirror their life content back at them because that’s what they enjoyed doing and reading about other people doing (the details of which were thought through in a hilarious brainstorming session amongst the team). As Murdoch said, it was ‘so radical yet so simple’ but only they had the nerve to try it; and it changed the content of newspapers in this country for ever.

Carvel and Coyle are excellent in their portrayals of the leads and many of the other characters are extremely engaging in support. The play is set in a news room occasionally creatively moving to a candlelit restaurant for networking meetings and a print room floor with a great use of levels and group dynamics. This is a gripping portrayal of one of the most important years in UK print media history and all too true in Britain today, this shows that when people are given what they want it can cause chaos.

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