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Review: Ink at Manhattan Theatre Club - Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

By Elizabeth Caracino

The five W’s: Who? What? When? Where? And Why? Those questions have been the foundation of storytelling since long before the setting of one of Broadway’s latest West End imports, Ink, however they’ve never been more profound.

Based on real events, set in London’s Fleet street, home of all of it’s major newspaper publishers, the story follows Rupert Murdoch who, in 1969, bought a then-failing newspaper called The Sun. Murdoch hires Larry Lamb as the editor of the paper and tells Lamb he wants to see The Sun become the number one daily newspaper, outshining its rival The Mirror, within a year of his takeover. Although Lamb balks at this idea he hires himself a band of misfit writers, photographers, and editors who set out to try to make history. It becomes a battle to see just how far The Sun can push the envelope and which paper can print the most ink?

After a sell out show in London, Bertie Carvel reprises the role of Rupert Murdoch and Johnny Lee Miller joins the show as Larry Lamb. The two embody their characters with such ease that you almost forget you are watching actors and not Murdoch and Lamb themselves. Each member of the ensemble presents a character so believable that you find yourself rooting for them as they experience the highs and lows of the industry. Unfortunately some of the American audience may struggle to understand some pieces of the strongly accented dialogue, luckily this was not true of any of the main characters.

When the curtain goes up and you see the set for the first time, your eyes play a trick on you. Is that a mountain? No, look closer. It’s desks. It’s a mountain of desks stacked to the ceiling! In order to create the chaos that was/is the print media, set designer Bunny Christie has stacked desks like a Jenga tower, creating several platform levels on the stage that you don’t realize are there until a cast member steps out. The eagle-eyed audience member can spy original 1960’s-70’s articles hanging within the set, a television set, and a toilet all hidden within this “desk mountain”. All this, combined with some well used projections along the back wall and impeccable lighting quickly draw the audience into the atmosphere of the time period and pandemonium that ruled The Sun’s offices. It’s clever staging that allows audiences to continue to be engrossed in its unveiling complexity throughout the piece and Christie deserves high praise for this creative use of the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

Whether it’s the darker shadows, slightly unkempt wardrobes of the cast, or the set littered with newspapers and splashed with ink, you can practically feel the tension build in your bones as the story progresses. In their pursuit for greater sales, Murdoch and Lamb forever changed both the content and way the news was presented to the public. Whether you know the ending to the story or are brand new to the tale, the show will keep you on the edge of your seat.

This show is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for the younger viewers (note there is one scene with nudity and swearing throughout) but those that witness this dramatic retelling of a vital piece of news media history are in for a wild ride of emotions, some truly incredible acting, and a superbly written story.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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