REVIEW: INK - New Theatre's Raw and Riveting Sydney Premiere

James Graham's electric and eviscerating play Ink leaves an indelible mark on the audience at Sydney's New Theatre. This sweeping epic dives headfirst into the ruthless disruption of Britain's newspaper industry in the 1960s, spearheaded by Australian Rupert Murdoch and his bold acquisition of The Sun tabloid.

Under the direction of Louise Fischer, Ink veers between intensely delivered dialogue and kinetic energy that reflects the frenetic pace of its newsroom and competitive Fleet Street setting. A massive 17-member ensemble brings Graham's dialogue and eclectic cast of characters to vivid life, drawing the audience directly into the turmoil surrounding Murdoch's moves to transform The Sun from a failing publication into a celebrity-obsessed, sensationalist circulation juggernaut.

At the centre of this media storm gravitates Adrian Adam's self-assured Rupert Murdoch, balancing charm and callousness as he subverts journalistic traditions and corporate hierarchies. But the spotlight truly shines on Nick Curnow capturing the manic drive of Murdoch's editorial lieutenant Larry Lamb, assembling a ragtag team of journos eager to embrace the bold future of tabloid culture.

The massive ensemble embodies every stereotype and archetype from loud-mouthed, gruff sub-editors to hungry reporters and overbearing bosses fighting to take down arch-rival publication The Mirror. Along with the superb cast, veteran favourite Les Asmussen (who playes various roles) and New Theatre debutant Simon Bolton ensure there's never a dull moment amidst the gripping storylines and outrageous story chasing.

Tom Bannerman's multilevel set design provides a versatile arena for the action to unfold, enhanced by striking projections that recreate the grit and spirit of 1960's Fleet Street. The attention to period detail is impressive, extending to Avie Stokes' array of costume pieces, along with newscasts and vintage video elements presented by the creative team.

While the sheer volume of characters can feel dizzying at times, the production captures the intoxicating ambition and cutthroat gamesmanship that allowed Murdoch's brash vision to disrupt the entire industry. At around 3 hours (including intermission), it's an engrossing marathon of a show that lays bare the insatiable appetite for influence and relevance driving media titans that continues today.

Unless you lament the dismantling of Fleet Street and the subversion of what today accounts for 'news', there are only moments in the performance where Rupert Murdoch might appear as villainous. At times, he is actually at odds with the extreme direction taken by his editor, sometimes wanting to calm the inflammatory rhetoric printed in The Sun, and second-guessing the 'win-at-all-costs' obsession of his executive. It is only towards the end of the performance that the wielding of power brought about by the newspaper's circulation (at one time the biggest in the world) appears to be taking seed.

By and large, with its boldness of vision and raw energy, Ink makes for a thrillingly immersive plunge into one of the most transformative eras for journalism. Murdoch's seismic impact still reverberates today, and this production impeccably depicts the beginnings of his controversial legacy.

Reviewed 8 rows from the front, 5 seats in from the right side aisle.
SEASON: At New Theatre, Newtown
Until 29 June 2024

Thu - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 2pm
Sat 29 June 2pm only

Full $37
Concessions, Groups (6+) $32
Thrifty Thursdays $25

(Images: © Chris Lundie for New Theatre)