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Now Opening: Rupert Murdoch-Inspired 'Ink' Arrives on Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Ron Fassler |


Will ‘Ink,’ which follows the rise of Rupert Murdoch, prove indelible?

James Graham’s Ink, which opened in London in 2017 to unanimous praise, and won the coveted Olivier Award for Bertie Carvel in the role of Rupert Murdoch, opens on Broadway April 24th as the final entry in the 2018-19 Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway season. Co-starring Jonny Lee Miller (TV’s Elementary, and an Olivier Award winner himself for 2012’s Frankenstein), Ink is directed by Rupert Goold, who has made a name for himself on both sides of the Atlantic, with his work on such Broadway productions as the Patrick Stewart Macbeth, the musical American Psycho and the Tony-nominated King Charles III.

Jonny Lee Miller and Bertie Carvel star in ‘Ink’ at the Manhattan Theatre Club (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Jonny Lee Miller and Bertie Carvel star in ‘Ink’ at the Manhattan Theatre Club (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Set in 1969, Ink tells the story of when the Australian-born Murdoch took on the powers-that-be who, at that time, had a stranglehold on the elite set of British newspapers. Murdoch purchased The Sun, something of a joke at the time, and turned it into a powerhouse. He recruited Larry Lamb, a former editor at The Daily Mirror, the paper that then had the city’s largest readership, and gave him the mandate to take The Sun to never-before-seen distribution heights by way of daring feats (and often new lows) in tabloid journalism. The play focuses on the dramatic turnaround that took place over the course of one year, forever changing the way people read (and eventually viewed) the news, especially when later on Murdoch created the Fox Network, one of the driving forces of televised news in the 20th and now 21st century.

As divisive as he is rich and powerful, Murdoch is a fascinating character, both in real life and in this largely true story that playwright James Graham has crafted. But the play belongs to the character of Larry Lamb, whose relentlessness is only matched by his boss’s deep pockets, which provide him the tools he needs in order to succeed. Having already seen Ink, I can attest that its us-against-them, winner-take-all philosophy keeps the play’s high-wire tension taut and gripping. Jonny Lee Miller, who is relatively unknown in New York as a stage actor, holds the center of the play with a driving intensity that never lets up. He is matched by the devious and slightly sinister Murdoch of Bertie Carvel, who is practically reptilian in his body language, creating a smirking, super-smart creature that would be a caricature coming from a less skilled actor.

When it opened in London in 2017, Ink was called a “broncobuster of a play” by the London Times (a paper which Murdoch now owns). The Telegraph wrote: “The play barely contains a dull line…Graham has surely penned a super, soaraway smash.” I mention these quotes in part to provide context, but also to show how the critics got a bit carried away with newspaper slang in their use of made-up words such as “broncobuster” and “soaraway.” It would appear that the play has a high-charging effect on even the most jaded of writers – the critics.

This is the story about how Rupert Murdoch changed newspapers forever. Even with diminished readership, his influence is still being felt as we come close to the end of the first two decades of this new century. And it’s entirely appropriate that this play arrives now, as both a cautionary tale and an evening of theater that is both hype and substance rolled into one.

Ink is playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in a limited engagement, now through June 23rd.

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in May 2019.

 

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