My Variety Review: 'Ink'
Garish, lurid and brash, “Ink,” the British import now on Broadway in a Manhattan Theatre Club production, is the theatrical equivalent of its subject, the UK’s Daily Sun — the newspaper that reshaped British journalism and propelled Rupert Murdoch’s ascent to media mogul. Like the tabloid, it feels unsubstantial, rushed and icky.
You can’t say the audience hasn’t been warned. In a delicious opening scene, Murdoch, played with journo-lizard charm and slouching swagger by Bertie Carvel (“Matilda”), is trying to convince editor Larry Lamb (Jonny Lee Miller of TV’s “Elementary”) to run his newly purchased newspaper. A wary Lamb explains to the Australian businessman the 5 W’s of journalism — who, what, where, when and why — and why the “why” isn’t important. “Once you know ‘why’ something happened,” says Lamb, the story’s over.
So those expecting a psychological study of a titan, deep analysis of the marketplace, or personal stories resulting from an industry’s seismic shift will find the play lacking, as it favors boisterous pronouncements and mythologizing over the human touch. Think of it as “Network” for ink-stained wretches.
“It’s all about a good story,” responds Murdoch, and it’s a dandy one here that whizzes to its conclusion in a staging directed with deadline urgency by Rupert Goold, artistic director. of the Almeida Theatre, where the production began. The play zips through 1969, the first year of the Sun under Murdoch’s ownership and Lamb’s stewardship, as these outsiders go up against the intractable, imperious British press establishment.
As a formidable and nostalgic reminder of the days before digital, set designer Bunny Christie creates an impressive, towering set of heavy metal desks, file cabinets, typewriters and swivel chairs, lit by Neil Austin with a perpetual haze. Is it from nostalgia, or the fumes from all those chainsmoking wags?