Saturday, March 25, 2023
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Ink - starring Jonny Lee Miller and Bertie Carvel: a year in the life of the SUN vs the MIRROR - David vs Goliath

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

Fleet Street, London. Center for print journalism. 1969. A 38 year old, brash newspaper mogul, already wealthy Australian, Rupert Murdoch (Bertie Carvel) takes over a struggling London paper the SUN for fun. Or is it ego? Or ambition?

He’s bought it well below its value because it is failing from Hugh Cudlipp (Michael Siberry) owner of both the SUN and the MIRROR. Enter the lead character in this David and Goliath story that has shades of THE FRONT PAGE written all over it - Larry Lamb (Jonny Lee Miller) who formerly worked for the MIRROR as his new henchman, giving him exactly one year to overtake and destroy the competition and set a new norm in journalistic history.

In exactly 2 hours and forty five minutes with one intermission at the Manhattan Theatre Club – the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre you can see the outcome if this docu-drama history lesson YOU ARE THERE presentation appeals to you.

Director Rupert Goold (King Charles III and AMERICAN PSYCHO) has pulled out all the stops to keep this high energy production aloft written by James Graham and imported from across the pond. But it rarely soars.

As Larry Lamb enlists a whole new staff (mostly men with the exception of Joyce Hopkirk – an excellent Tara Summers) for THE SUN in a very entertaining music hall flavored montage, director Goold has enlisted a great creative team to mount this not very exciting story. Piano on stage throughout.

Bunny Christie has designed a magnificent jumble of steel desks and filing cabinets reaching towards the sky and the stars. Somewhat akin to what Murdoch is attempting to do. She has also designed the period 60’s costumes. The hazy lighting design by Neil Austin recreates the smoke filled air in the office. Projection design by Jon Driscoll includes blow-ups of Page 3 – the page that became controversial for its naked ladies feature and caused the SUN to fall. Stephanie Rahn (Rana Roy) is the brave young girl talked into posing for the pic by Larry Lamb who happens to be the lead character in this opus – not Murdoch.

The photographer is winningly played by Andrew Durand who also doubles as the spokesman in a TV commercial that garners applause for his incredible ultra-speedy spiel.

Fast talking, high octane energy performance by Jonny Lee Miller as he gathers his new staff and comes up with new ideas to make the SUN a paper for the masses. A popular paper. Something real people want. Coaching his team of reporters along to create what is now known as a tabloid. Pop music. Weather. Horoscopes. Gossip. Photos. Bingo. Prizes. Sex. Pussy Week. Et al.

A montage of what goes into the process of printing the newspaper, while interesting up to a point goes on forever albeit showing in theatrical terms all the complicated steps it took back then to get a paper published before digital technology took over.

Plus Union problems. Plus a kidnapping. All in a day’s work to do whatever needs to be done to get to the top of the heap.

Bertie Carvel is Murdoch. It’s a mannered performance and he is not often on stage. We get to know him over dinner with Larry in a couple of scenes where he speaks with his mouth full and points with his fork ignoring manners for his true purpose of killing the competition. There is not a lot of story here. It is all in the presentation. As entertaining and theatrical it is – it isn’t enough.

The show belongs to Jonny Lee Miller and he does a fantastic job but we don’t really care for any of them. Murdoch lives on.

2 hours 45 minutes – one intermission. Through June 23rd.

Photo: Joan Marcus

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