Previewed 9 September 2017, Opened 19 September 2017, Closed 6 January 2018 at the Duke of York's Theatre in London
James Graham's acclaimed new play Ink in London's West End, following a sold-out season at the Almeida Theatre in North London
Fleet Street. 1969. The Sun rises. A young and rebellious Rupert Murdoch asks the impossible and launches The Sun’s first editor’s quest: to give the people what they want. No matter the cost. The story behind the birth of Britain's most popular, controversial and influential newspaper.
The cast at the Duke of York's Theatre features Bertie Carvel and Richard Coyle - other cast to be confirmed. Directed by Rupert Goold with movement by Lynne Page, designs by Bunny Christie, video by Jon Driscoll, lighting by Neil Austin and music and sound by Adam Cork.
James Graham's theatre credits include Quiz at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2018, the comedy Labour of Love at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2017 and the political play This House that was staged at the Garrick Theatre in 2016.
When this production opened at the Almeida Theatre in June 2017, Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph described how "the script contains barely a dull line, and Rupert Goold ensures there's no let-up in interest or intrigue even as the hacks yak-i-di-yak. There's a sinuous quality to the ensemble work, with Swinging Sixties couplings in the noirish shadows and outbreaks of tongue-in-cheek cabaret, too... Once again finding a play for today in what looked like yesterday's news, James Graham has surely penned a super, soaraway smash." Michael Billington in the Guardian explained that "what makes this such a good and gripping piece of theatre is that it doesn’t preach us sermons about press ethics but leaves us to draw our own conclusions from the known facts. It strikes me as a first-rate play about newspapers in the honourable tradition of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s The Front Page... Rupert Goold’s production, with an outstanding set by Bunny Christie comprising an Everest of newspaper desks, fairly whizzes along and captures the dizzy excitement of the hot metal era." Neil Norman in the Daily Express highlighted how "Rupert Goold's lively production rattles along like a runaway train and the first half is a breathless, exciting and bumpy ride... Among the sterling cast, Bertie Carvel invests Rupert Murdoch with an intriguing mixture of brashness and reticence while Richard Coyle brilliantly conveys the mercurial Larry Lamb who discovered the hard way that once the Pandora's Box of Page 3 has been opened, it can never be closed." Ann Treneman in the Times thought that "the first half is too long, with a bit too much explaining, the detail, which James Graham adores, in danger of swamping the plot. The second half, though, is gripping as Larry Lamb wrestles with the consequences of his creation and his quest to beat the bestselling Daily Mirror." Michael Day in the i newspaper said that "this splendid Fleet Street drama by James Graham, treats the birth and spectacular growth of that most mocked and mocking of British institutions, The Sun newspaper, with the seriousness it deserves. The play is funny, but thankfully, never arch.... Rupert Goold's direction is a kinetic delight, as the excellent cast stalk, bound and hover around the old analogue newsroom." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times wrote that "Bertie Carvel is admirable as ever as Rupert Murdoch, but this is Larry Lamb's story. Richard Coyle shows his early idealism and its erosion by ever more uncaring ambition." Henry Hitchings at the London Evening Standard noted how "Rupert Goold's production pulses with energy, occasionally threatening to turn into a mischievous musical... The play meanders a little in its second half. But, buoyed by Graham's trademark appetite for asking awkward questions, it's a shrewd and absorbing look at journalistic ethics." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail commented that, "in Rupert Goold’s tightly-drilled production, the plot motor is The Sun's speedy challenge to the Daily Mirror's market supremacy. Could it overtake the Daily Mirror within a year? If that means reporting on things close to home and persuading young women to pose topless, so be it."
This production was original seen at North London's Almeida Theatre - previewed from 17 June 2017, opened on 27 June 2017 and closed on 5 August 2017 - when the original cast featured Bertie Carvel as 'Rupert Murdoch' and Richard Coyle as 'Larry Lamb' with Pearl Chanda as 'Stephanie Rahn (Stephanie Marrian)', Geoffrey Freshwater as 'Sir Alick / Rees-Mogg', Jack Holden as 'Beverley / Christopher Timothy', Justin Salinger as 'Brian McConnell', David Schofield as 'Hugh Cudlipp', Sophie Stanton as 'Joyce Hopkirk / Muriel McKay', Tim Steed as 'Bernard Shrimsley / Brittenden', Tony Turner as 'Frank Nicklin / Hetherington' and Rene Zagger as 'Ray Mills / Lee Howard'.
"James Graham turns his beady little eye on the rebirth of The Sun newspaper in the late 1960s, after Rupert Murdoch bought it from the Mirror group. At that point it was a flagging broadsheet with low circulation, but under Murdoch and its new editor, Larry Lamb, it was turned overnight into Britain's most successful, rambunctious, irreverent, vulgar and often detested tabloid. Ink brilliantly captures that thrilling, anarchic sense of The Sun's eruption into Fleet Street, still a place of old printing presses and hot metal and grumpy union members in brown overalls... The play is perceptive on how The Sun marked a change in the British working class, from deferential and collectivist into something brasher, more consumerist and pleasure-seeking. Early on, Lamb summons his staff to ask, what do the people really want? The answers: football, sex, bingo, gossip and the weather. So that's what The Sun gives them. It's a likeable portrait of the tabloid thumbing its nose at a stuffy old Establishment... Even if the latter half does drag a bit, there's still much to enjoy here, and the surreally funny "knickers in a tin" conversation will stay with me for a long time. You'll have to see it for yourself." The Sunday Times
"This is the story of the relaunch of the failing Sun newspaper in 1969. Rupert Murdoch, the hungry Aussie outsider, takes on the huge-selling Daily Mirror by telling his editor, Larry Lamb, to ‘make it loud’. The Sun duly introduces lots of extra telly and sport coverage, Page Three girls and 'Headless Man In Topless Bar' stories. The paper duly rises, by sheer cheek, giving people what it thinks they want. James Graham's play wisely leaves the moralising to us. Director Rupert Goold’s whisky-breathed cast of play assorted chain-smoking hacks, gumchewing models, union men and press barons. Ink is over-detailed... but it never loses its focus on the tooth-and-claw rivalry of the period. The cast is cracking, especially Richard Coyle as Larry Lamb... and Bertie Carvel as a deliciously sinister Murdoch." The Mail on Sunday
"James Graham's gripping play opens just as Rupert Murdoch buys a left-wing, underperforming title called The Sun. The plot follows the paper's first year under new management, with fearless Aussie Murdoch the new owner and Yorkshireman Larry Lamb his hard-as-nails editor. The pair are driven by personal grievance. Lamb - who launched the paper's Page Three feature with Stephanie Marrian the first topless model - has seen his talents overlooked by snobbish newspaper owners. And Murdoch has contempt for rules that help the establishment - a club he doesn't so much want to join as destroy. Their mission: to overtake the all-conquering Daily Mirror's sales in just one year. Director Rupert Goold sets the action in the shadowy, tumbledown newsroom. The scenes in which Lamb recruits his motley staff have something of The Magnificent Seven. Bertie Carvel's Murdoch has the charisma of Dracula, while Richard Coyle's Lamb is a newspaperman with ink in his veins. Murdoch haters won't leave with a new love for the mogul. But they might have a bit more respect." The London Metro
Ink in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 9 September 2017, opened on 19 September 2017 and closed on 6 January 2018