Review: Ink, starring Bertie Carvel and Jonny Lee Miller
What makes a good story? While the answer at the beginning of Ink may be the five W's, after seeing the show you could argue that the rise of The Sun under Rupert Murdoch and Larry Lamb is the epitome of a good story. In 1969, long before Murdoch had taken his career on the international road, he bought The Sun, and ailing newspaper and with the help of Lamb as his editor, turned it into a mass media tabloid whose influence is felt to this day. Ink covers the first year of The Sun under Murdoch's influence, in a pulsing pace that almost seems to "lean forward with moment," similarly to what they wished for The Sun.
Bertie Carvel plays Murdoch, before anyone knew the legacy that Murdoch would have on this side of the pond. Though the paper that Murdoch revived may be the subject of the show, the real star is Jonny Lee Miller as Larry Lamb. The two of them are the racing pulse of the show, directed by Rupert Goold, and they manage to tell a story that may be taking place half a century ago but is nonetheless reflective of the road that the media has taken today.
Over the course of the play, under Murdoch's direction, Lamb races around the newspapers of London's Fleet Street, finding anyone who could say yes to the proposal that Murdoch presented Lamb in shadow during the first scene. The team he puts together is one that quickly leans into the momentum of Murdoch's paper, like a train that can't be stopped. Indeed, it seems like The Sun is hurtling forwards, a force to be reckoned with, with no end in sight. Even when the play is discussing the paper's darker times, and dealing with *that* photograph that catapulted their sales to new heights, it never forgets what the effects of such a force can be. There are questions about the ethics of journalism that are raised. And it makes one wonder just what people will do to achieve their goals.
Ink, with it's stunning direction and cast, and clever design elements that see The Sun's office created out of piles of desks and papers that reach the ceiling; still manages to hint at the future that awaits Murdoch here in America. It's almost impossible not to watch the play that charts his rise without thinking about what we all know will happen. As for Larry Lamb? You may not know his name without seeing the play. But he is still the journalist with a chip on his shoulder that managed to transform the world of newspapers. While Ink succeeds all around, it succeeds the most at making sure people know who Lamb was and the journey of The Sun in that tumultuous first year.