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Sydney Review- Ink: an engrossing drama

By Paul Kiely



By James Graham

Directed by Louise Fletcher

A New Theatre Production

New Theatre

King Street, Newtown


Season: 29 May – 29 June 2024

               Duration: 2 hours 50 minutes (with interval)


Something revealed in the opening scene of INK was Rupert Murdoch’s quandary about whether to dine on lobster or a very rare scotch fillet. With a taste for things rare and bloody, it seems an appropriate metaphor for how Rupert does business. Later in the play he prophetically states to his new editor “Create an appetite, but I warn you, you will have to keep feeding it.”

Whether you hate or admire Rupert Murdoch (or perhaps have never heard of him) is irrelevant as to whether you enjoy this play.

INK has all the ingredients for an engrossing drama: power, ambition, revenge and double standards. It is clever storytelling at its best and was nominated for a distinguished Olivier Award.

Written by James Graham, INK is the true story of how Rupert Murdoch entered London’s Fleet Street by acquiring ‘The Sun’ newspaper. How he turned the papers’ fortune around in less than a year is legendary. It acted as his launching pad in revolutionising the newspaper industry and the bedrock to build his worldwide media empire.

Set in London, the city is experiencing the last year of the ‘sw inging sixties’ where art, music and politics are changing rapidly. A young Australian upstart has arrived, determined to ruffle the stuffy British press establishment. It is going to be a David vs Goliath battle.

Along for the journey is Larry Lamb, Murdoch’s new editor for The Sun. He is sceptical about his boss’s business model; about creating a new style of newspaper, one made for the interests of the normal person. However, Murdoch gives him editorial free reign and as his innovations and decisions garner success, Lamb becomes more like Murdoch. Brash, fearless and with a determination to reach goals no matter what the cost.

For Lamb, the immediate goal is to transform the dwindling circulation of The Sun to the heights of its competitor The Daily Mirror, then the highest selling newspaper in the world.

In answer to Lamb’s hesitancy to instigate radical changes, Murdoch simply says “If it sells, do it.”

And off he goes…

Besides staff cuts, poaching editors from competitors and switching to a tabloid format, Lamb changes the ‘look’ of the paper by using extra large fonts, underlines and italics. The ‘feel’ of the paper reflects the new mantra: WIN – FREE – LOVE. That is, Win prize competitions, Free bonuses and coupons and Love stories that sizzle!

Over the course of 1970, Fleet Street can hardly believe the audacity of Murdoch’s methods – union battles, television advertising and the final ‘nuclear’ option: the Page 3 girl.

Although, in fairness, the play depicts Murdoch aghast at Lamb’s decision to publish full nude pictures.

James Graham also recounts the terrible kidnapping of Murial McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s deputy Alick McKay. It is a sad tale and may explain Rupert’s reluctance for media interviews in the ensuing years.

Under the direction of Louise Fletcher, the production standard of INK was excellent. The set was impressive, using a see-through screen to project photographs and videos of the era. There was an elevated section which, at one point, Murdoch stands, Pope-like, to sermon his staff.

There were countless costume changes, as well as endless light and sound prompts.

Dialogue was dominated by Rupert Murdoch (Adrian Adam) and Larry Lamb (Nick Curnow). Both actors gave magnificent interpretations of their real-life characters and with a full cast of seventeen players, the stage was abuzz.

Parts of some monologues were lost through the volume of background music and the run-time of 160 minutes was challenging.

The impressive point with Graham’s writing is that he allows the audience to form their own opinion regarding the motive and merits of Murdoch the man. Is he an obnoxious disrupter with too much power or an innovator and advocate of free speech? You be the judge.

But, as Murdoch says, “A good story has to be heard and it has to be told well.”

New Theatre’s production of INK achieves this on both counts!



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