Ink at The Almeida Theatre,
July 22nd, 2017
” Law to the Left, God to the Right”
I loved James Graham’s last work, “This House”, which explored the hung parliament of the 70s, but loved “Ink” even more. The drama traces the transition from The Sun as a failing broadsheet (Never knew that! before!) to a populist-driven tabloid.
The stage is set with positioned “Five ‘W’s”: “Who,” “What,” “When,” “Where,” and “Why.” Referring back to the Five “W”s helps journalists address the fundamental questions that every story should be able to answer. Here, their answers in the present instance: Who? Publisher Rupert Murdoch and Editor Larry Lamb. What? Murdoch’s takeover, and Lamb’s reinvention, of The Sun newspaper. When? 1969-70. Where? Fleet Street, London, when it was still so deeply identified with the press that in this play it’s simply referred to by locals as “the street”. Why? Ah, now, that’s the interesting one.
From the outset, The Murdoch Sun is a byword for “fun” and, above all, sales and never claims to be investigative. Murdoch’s ambition was for it to overtake the Daily Mirror within a year of his buying The Sun from IPC, owner of the Mirror. The first half of the play, at least, shows liberalism as a contrast to the increasingly stuffy preachiness of the Mirror under Hugh Cudlipp (David Schofield). Cudlipp is a believer in the duty of newspapers to guide and educate the working class. S, its two warring philosophies – holding up a mirror to who we are versus showing who we might be and, when judged solely by the market, the former wins out. It is with this mind set that Murdoch is able to persuade Lamb to take on his former employers, whispering, tactically that he never got to edit the Mirror because he wasn’t part of the old boys’ network.