“Give people what they want!”
Seems simple and even honorable, if we we’re discussing retail products, fast-food, or customer service.
But as presented in James Graham’s Ink, based on real-life the events, the stock in trade here is not food or fashion but what is passed off – printed in Big BOLD HEADLINES! – as news. Facts and integrity be damned. Ink presents us the events that gave us the British tabloid The Sun, a publication that paved the way for a proliferation of tabloid-style news and, years later, FOX News and social media platforms designed to similarly placate the populace and to encourage its spread.
James Graham’s Ink depicts a team of underdog reporters and a rogue editor set out to beat the competition and change the way the world looks at news – all this under the watchful eye of controversial newsman, Rupert Murdoch. It is as entertaining as it is disturbing.
Featured in this production is an all-star cast featuring Playhouse on the Square alum Michael Kinslow (Shanktown, ) as Rupert Murdoch. Alongside Kinslow are Playhouse on the Square Company Members Michael Gravois (Roe, A Doll’s House, I Am My Own Wife), Kim Sanders (Roe, Shanktown), and Brooke Paprtiz (Little Shop of Horrors, Days of Rage).
Warner Crocker (Junk, Peter Pan) directs this production at The Circuit Playhouse.
Here’s what major national publications have said about Ink:
In 1969, Rupert Murdoch purchased the fledging British newspaper The Sun. At the time, the paper was limping along, trying to stay afloat. But Murdoch, an Australian and an outsider in the world of British journalism, he saw possibility in the paper. Epic possibility.
The 38-year-old Murdoch was convinced that The Sun could out-sell the Daily Mirror, one of the world’s most successful papers. While he owned newspapers in his native Australia, Murdoch set out to be a disruptor in the wild west of the British newspaper market. He hoped to overturn the stuffy media establishment. So he hired Larry Lamb, a hungry Northern editor of The Daily Mail, to turn The Sun around. As Murdoch told Lamb, a Yorkshire-born son of a blacksmith, “I just want something… LOUD!”
James Graham’s riveting play, Ink, recounts the stranger-than-fiction true tale of The Sun’s rise from underdog to media behemoth. Ink is about using sex, scandal and more sex to allure readers. It’s a story about the transformation of the news media. It’s about the lengths people go to get what they want. And it’s about so much more.
“At its heart Ink is about the relationship between two beasts of the media world — one who is a titan across the international stage, (Murdoch), and the other one who is largely forgotten, (Lamb),” says Ink’s director Rupert Goold.
“Ink” plays a nifty game. Turning the tabloid’s tactics back on its own story, Graham tells us a tale that’s almost too good to be true. It plays out like a classic sports story: Boss picks his team of misfits, trains them up, and takes on the champs. It even comes with montage sequences, as the paper takes shape and headlines stack up. Sometimes, it’s a mob flick with Murdoch wining and dining Lamb like an old Mafioso; sometimes a heist movie, a smash and grab raid on the British establishment. That can seem superficial, a glib gloss on history, but it’s told with such self-awareness that we bring our own skepticism. We’re being sold a story.
New York Times:
Ink is set in London, in the gory glory days of a quaint phenomenon: print journalism. The show begins in 1969, with the purchase of a dying newspaper. Mr. Graham’s account of the resurrection of that paper — into a tabloid behemoth that hypnotizes its readership while forever altering its competition’s DNA — foretells the age of populist media in which we now live and squirm.
As for the Mephistopheles who sets this process into motion, he is still very much alive and reigning over a robust empire that probably reaches into your own home. His name is Rupert Murdoch.
Ink charts Murdoch’s seduction of one Larry Lamb, an editor steeped in the old-school values of Fleet Street, then the main artery of British journalism. It is Lamb whom Murdoch, freshly arrived from Australia, chooses to oversee the rebirth of his new purchase, The Sun — a “stuck-up broadsheet,” as he describes it — as a tabloid for the masses.
It is indeed fun to watch Lamb and his crew brainstorming in meetings about how to best their rivals, while pondering what “people really like.” The answers include television, gossip and sex — obvious, perhaps, but nonetheless waiting to be exploited with a new, unapologetic directness. Factual accuracy becomes secondary.
As Murdoch tells the staff just before the first edition of the revamped Sun goes to press: “You’ve decided to give people what they want. Something so radical — and yet so simple. To hold up a mirror … to ourselves. And to hell with the consequences if we don’t like what we see. It’s who we are.”
Or as Murdoch urges Lamb, “Get the readers to become the storytellers.” He adds, “Isn’t that the real end point of the revolution? When they’re producing their own content themselves?”
Those words might be the credo of any number of latter-day moguls, including Mark Zuckerberg. Ink proposes that the sensibility that would generate today’s tidal wave of social media originated with early London-era Murdoch.
The Circuit Playhouse, in partnership with Show Sponsors Art and Nancy Graesser along with Sharon Younger Circuit Playhouse, Inc. Super Sponsor Dr. Thomas Ratliff, presents the regional premiere of James Graham’s Tony-nominated play.
Tickets are available now at playhouseonthesquare.org or by calling the box office (901) 726-4656.
Written by: James Graham
Running March 24th – April 16th, 2023
The Circuit Playhouse; Overton Square Performing Arts District; 51 South Cooper Street; Memphis
The complete cast and crew of Ink is as follows:
Larry Lamb: David Hammons
Rupert Murdoch: Michael Kinslow
Hugh Cudlipp/Ensemble: Michael Gravois*
Bernard Shrimesley/Ensemble: Kashief Crain
Brian McConnell/Ensemble: David Galloway
Beverle/Christopher/Ensemble: Ben Jaeger**
Ray Mills/Ensemble: Jason Gerhard
Lee Howard/TV Host/Ensemble: Kim Sanders*
Anna Murdoch/Diana/Ensemble: Brooke Papritz*
Chrissie/Ensemble: Caroline Simpson
Stephanie Rahn/Ensemble: Stephanie Almeida
Sir Alick/Chapel Father/Ensemble: Sam Weakley
Frank Nicklin/Percy Roberts/Ensemble: Jeff Kirwan
Swing 1: Tyler Brumback
Swing 2: Eric Schultz
THE CREATIVE TEAM
Director: Warner Crocker
Stage Manager: Kaylyn Nichols**
Scenic Designer: Phillip Hughen
Lighting Designer: Melissa Andrews
Sound Designer: Joshua Crawford
Costume Designer: Waverly Strickland
Production Manager: Phillip Hughen
Technical Director: Mike Jurkovic
* Resident Company Member
**Associate Company Member