StageScan Pick: Ink

Ink at the Almeida received all positive pro reviews, with an average 4 stars. Sarah Crompton (What’s On Stage) admired James Graham’s ”compressed and much-adapted history of the Sun’s first year” which she saw portray its world “enthusiastically – and sympathetically” through writing’ of “supple power”. Michael Billington (Guardian) judged it “first-rate… good and gripping” because “it doesn’t preach” and praised Graham’s “knack of bringing the past to theatrical life”. Andrzej Lukowski (Time Out) described a “non-partisan… epic” which “telescopes a sprawling story brilliantly“ yet “takes a joy in historical detail”.

In the first half of Rupert Goold’s production, Crompton saw “scenes unfold in fluid succession” with “a riot of anecdote and zinging dialogue” which even “incorporates song and dance as Lamb recruits a motley crew of journalists”.  Billington found it “breezy, often very funny” and Lukowski enjoyed a ”strikingly Gooldian sequence” which “gleefully details the dementedly complicated process that was the hot metal press”. Only the second half, explained Billington “begins to explore the implications of the circulation-war initiated by Murdoch and Lamb”. Crompton found this part “more problematic” but she found Bunny Christie’s set “wonderfully adaptable” while Billington thought her “Everest of newspaper desks… outstanding”.

Crompton felt “Carvel’s performance as Murdoch” made the piece “unmissable” adding “every time he appears… coiled with the sense of his own power, he sends a jolt of electricity through the entire theatre, perfectly encapsulating the dangerous disruption that Murdoch brought to British society”. While Lukowski, who saw him played as “the actual Devil” as “hissing, hunched and sinuous” he “looks at everyone and everything like they’re his prey” suggested “it almost feels like a brilliant cameo”, Billington saw him presented “not as some horned monster but as a man driven by the ruthless logic of the market”.

Lukowski thought Richard Coyle “excellent” as Larry Lamb, “no sleaze merchant but a smart, funny, working-class Yorkshireman whose mounting disenchantment at the establishment propels him from spirited rebellion to something bleaker”. Billington acknowledged “sterling support” from the rest of the cast. Crompton saw Tim Steed have “a lot of fun” with his “uptight” character and Lukowski admired “a great turn from Sophie Stanton”. Crompton, who found the supporting characters “caricatured” saw them neverthelss played “with zest”.

Billington felt it “pins down a pivotal moment in newspaper history” and Crompton agreed the production “captures all the energy as well as the excess of the era”. Lukowski saw “a personal tragedy, of a good journalist driven gradually to the dark side” and while doubting the truth of this, admitted “it’s a good story, and as any hack will tell you, that’s the most important thing”.

Booking to 5 August 2017 with a handful of tickets still available from the Almeida’s website at time of writing. And for more of the James Graham magic, don’t miss Albert’s Boy or Labour of Love.


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