As someone who has worked extensively with a number of ex-tabloid hacks, I have to say, the prospect of sitting through a play depicting the rather unsavoury breed didn’t strike me as an attractive prospect. But what Ink at the Duke of York Theatre offers is a fascinating insight into the history of British Newspapers in a powerful and yet, at times, humorous production, performed with absolute aplomb by a great cast.
Written by James Graham, Ink depicts an evolutionary moment for the red-top newspapers, when an ambitious businessman by the name of Rupert Murdoch (Bertie Carvel) purchases The Sun and along with his editor Larry Lamb (Richard Coyle) revolutionizes the media industry as we now know it. They were to blame for the first sensationalist reporting and for the advent of the page three girl.
And in this snapshot, we see the burgeoning relationship between the two men, with an occasional hint of a conscience, which is mostly outweighed by the desperation to succeed at all cost.
Carvel is almost unrecognisable as Murdoch: such is his transformation into the powerful mogul. His performance is quite remarkable as the sneery, slimy and yet charismatic tycoon whose ambition drives his employees to make questionable decisions on taste and decency in print.
Coyle, on the other hand, manages to gain sympathy with his portrayal of Lamb, who is so worried about not topping the readership leaderboard that he will print almost anything in order to win favour.
And I have to say, they are both much more lovable than the hardened and unscrupulous media men I have had to endure throughout my career, but I don’t think anyone wants to watch a play about them.