Ink review

Theatre, Drama
5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(11user reviews)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Bertie Carvel (Rupert Murdoch) and Richard Coyle (Larry Lamb)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Richard Coyle (Larry Lamb) and Bertie Carvel (Rupert Murdoch)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Bertie Carvel (Rupert Murdoch) Geoffrey Freshwater (Sir Alick McKay) Richard Coyle (Larry Lamb)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Bertie Carvel (Rupert Murdoch)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Bertie Carvel (Rupert Murdoch)
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© Marc Brenner David Schofield (Hugh Cudlipp) and Richard Coyle (Larry Lamb)
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© Marc Brenner Geoffrey Freshwater
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© Marc Brenner Jack Holden (Beverley)
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© Marc Brenner Justin Salinger, Tim Steed, Sophie Stanton, Rene Zagger and Richard Coyle
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Richard Coyle (Larry Lamb) and Justin Salinger (Brian McCconnell)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Richard Coyle (Larry lamb) and Justin Salinger (BRIAN MCCONNELL)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Richard Coyle (Larry Lamb) Justin Salinger (Brian Mcconell) Jack Holden (Christopher Timothy)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner
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© Marc Brenner
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© Marc Brenner
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© Marc Brenner Tim Steed (Bernard Shrimsley)
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© Marc Brenner Tim Steed, Justin Salinger, Sophie Stanton and Richard Coyle
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Tony Turner, Bertie Carvel, Geoffrey Freshwater, Richard Coyle, Jack Holden, Tim Steed

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Bertie Carvel’s Rupert Murdoch steals the show as the Almeida’s Sun newspaper drama transfers to the West End

Interview: 'there is blood on their hands' – James Graham on 'Ink', The Sun and Murdoch

Exclusive: Rupert Murdoch triumphs in West End stunner! It’s Fleet Street at the fag end of the ’60s, dominated by established rules, print unions, hard-bitten hacks who’d done their time and above all Hugh Cudlipp’s Daily Mirror, a mass-circulation paper with a mission to inform and enlarge its readers at the same time as entertaining them. Enter: a charismatic young Australian sheep farmer, determined to say ‘up yours’ to all of the above.

This roller-coaster play tells the story of The Sun, an ailing minor title bought for a song by Murdoch and relaunched with a skeleton staff of weirdos and rejects, led by scar-faced Yorkshire sub-editor Larry Lamb. From the moment that Bertie Carvel’s Murdoch slithers conspiratorially onto the stage, you know how this story ends (spoiler: it was The Sun wot won). What’s incredibly brilliant and surprising is how much fun it is to watch them win.

James Graham has hit on the brilliant idea of applying tabloid rather than the usual broadsheet principles to his play: ‘Ink’ shows you who, what, where and when, with maximum zing – but leaves ‘why’ at the door. There are hectic outbreaks of brainstorming and cabaret. Director/designer team Rupert Goold and Bunny Christie have added a fantastical set piled high with desks and typewriters, a phenomenal cast of character actors playing working girls, flower children, stone-smiting chapel fathers, booze-hounds and hacks. 

‘Ink’ revels in the energy of the time. Lamb and his team are on a mission to rip up everything proprietors thought the people ought to have (fact-based news, politics, enlightenment) and give them what they ‘really’ want – TV listings, the weather, celebrity gossip and, in the final blow that destroyed The Mirror’s dominance, nipples. They dance a conga through everything from the invention of clickbait headlines, fake news and Page 3 to the death of the British post-war consensus. It’s the opposite of worthy, preachy or boring. But it’s also amazingly nuanced, thanks to superb acting, especially from Carvel, who is so good that he actually makes you root for Murdoch. 

He's basically one of the best character actors on the planet; a shapeshifter who is totally unrecognisable from role to role. He leans into Murdoch, playing him with a slithery, nervous charisma, a weirdly reptilian stoop, and a queasy conscience. It’s like a cross between Mr Burns and George Smiley, with an occasional lizard flicker. West End theatre tickets may cost a little more than the 5p Sun, but Carvel's performance alone is worth the price. Hold the front page: this one's a smasher.


Users say (11)

5 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4.7 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Although about a publication I despise, Ink was a very entertaining play. The play is separated in two parts: the first half deals with how the Sun was relaunched after Murdoch acquired it and Lamb became Editor; the second is about the downward spiral of what happens to a paper and its competitors when sales figures become more important than actually informing the public.

During the first half, the staging is fun and energetic and the writing very funny - the second part is much darker and heavier. Richard Coyle, as Larry Lamb, is brilliant in both parts – funny at first, insufferable later for who he is and what becoming Editor of a daily has allowed him to become.  

Overall, a very interesting, educating and entertaining moment of theatre. 


I’ve seen this play in the Almeida as it’s the same production, I believe it’s all the same. Hope they kept the stage setting because it was quite great. The mess of tables, boxes and people did create a newsroom vibe; and the fast (super well written) dialogue builds the intense tension and fast dynamic for the play. 

The different characters and their relationships enrich the Sun paper story even more. I got completely invested with the ‘Newspapers’ war’ that I know nothing about. I’d definitely recommend.


The British public love to dish the dirt on unloved public figures, don't they?  Well, here we find what makes Rupert Murdoch tick.  How did this acerbic anti-social Aussie become the most successful media mogul in Britain?  By not caring who he trampled on and appealing to the nation's basic instinct, that's how.  Never mind the news, common man doesn't want the news!  he wants gossip!  Amazing play.  Superbly performed (though some voices don't carry well to the back of the stalls) and an extremely effective set and lighting, I hope this play earns a few well-deserved "gongs" in the next round of theatre back-slapping.


Really interesting play which explores how The Sun newspaper made its name, I learnt a lot about these early days that I did not know before watching the play. From the moment this play started I was hooked. I would recommend watching this play if you have time.


It was sold out in Almeida and I was delighted to get two seats for a matinee. 

James Graham's writing, Rupert Goold's direction, Bertie Carvel as Rupert Murdoch and Richard Doyle as Larry Lamb with a sterling supportive cast makes this production unmissable.

You watch with horror and fascination hos the greedy Murdoch and the ambitious Lamb make *why* disappear from *news* and how they changed the newspaper business in England.

Even when Murdoch found a sensitive spot, Lamb didn't stop.

Pearl Chanda displays naivety, vulnerability and ambition as she and Larry invented the first and original Page 3 Girl.



I absolutely loved this story about the founding of The Sun under the original editor Larry Lamb and take-no-prisoners founder Rupert Murdoch, who is played by Bertie Carvel - frankly the man must be a shape-shifter as he's unrecognisable from one stellar role to the next. 

So bonkers you couldn't make it up, it's a fascinating tale of backstabbing and deceit that sent The Sun soaring from a little-read broadsheet to the brassy tabloid we all love to hate. 

One of my highlights of the year. 


Following the Sun newspaper’s meteoric rise under the editorship of Larry Lamb, James Graham’s new play is pertinent, provocative and brilliantly performed.

Bertie Carvel is astonishing in the role of Rupert Murdoch, capturing the controversial mogul’s physicality, voice and personality with incredible detail. Equally impressive is Richard Coyle’s Larry Lamb, who we watch as he gradually outgrows his mentor, resorting to increasingly dubious tactics to sell newspapers.

These strong central performances are complemented by the impressive set design: a perilous mountain of desks, filing cabinets and typewriters – which really help to capture the mayhem of the newsroom.

Sure, the use of music and dancing in the production sometimes feels a little forced and the cast may not be as consistently strong as its leads. Nevertheless, I thoroughly recommend seeing Rupert Goold’s well-directed and timely production.


My other half wanted to see this and to be honest I didn't have a clue what to expect but this show genuinely blew me away. From the very start I was captivated.

Amazing set design, clever and funny script, perfectly cast with every actor putting in a sterling performance.

I highly recommend you all book to see this when it transfers to the west end.


Ink is one of the best things I’ve seen so far this year. It was easy to follow but not for one second predictable or boring.

Bertie Carvel, as Murdoch, couldn’t possibly have played the part better. Convincing and believable the whole way through, he was the definition of a true professional. His gestures, facial expressions, tone and pace throughout was completely spot on – he had me in the palm of his hand.

Richard Coyle, too, was an absolute treat to watch. He was charismatic, had great stage presence and his delivery of all things cheeky and sarcastic was done with pure ease. The two worked so well together.

The balance between the romanticism and the whole ‘how low can a journalist go’ is played perfectly and I found myself regularly reacting to the situation both morally and emotionally which is the sign of great theatre.

The music was fantastic! It really worked and didn’t take away from the seriousness of the story, the setting was great too. It was a chaotic but ordered mess, which is what the office was meant to be so it looked just how you’d imagine it.

The foreshadowing used made it so accessible to audiences both old and young and it had a very ‘Orwell’ feel about the whole thing. The Almeida has done it again, they just never fail to impress. 


James Graham's writing, Rupert Goold's direction, and a fabulous cast make this play unmissable, as far as I'm concerned. The set and sound design are also a delight. In fact, I left the theatre beaming.

Ink explores the ideas of 'news' and journalistic ethics through the story of The Sun's first editor Larry Lamb (Richard Coyle), and his moral testing at the the hands of Rupert Murdoch (Bertie Carvel). The dialogue between the two men is rapid-fire, sweary, and sharp, and the performances of Carvel and Coyle are perfectly balanced.

The makeshift look of the set creates a strange sympathy for the team behind The Sun, which is quite an achievement, given that I, and probably most of the audience, fall distinctly within The Guardian's natural readership. The situating of the newspaper's first staff as underdogs is a clever way into making you rethink an institution that irrevocably changed the landscape of British journalism, and not for the better. Graham's script is brilliantly challenging in this respect - it allows you to take nothing for granted.

I loved Ink enough to be trying to make time to see it again, and that rarely happens. If you can get to it, you really should.

0 of 1 found helpful

I don’t know how I feel about this play. The Sun is an abhorrent newspaper. Rupert Merdoch is a questionable human being. I am unsure whether this is a romanticiseation of the paper and that man. I am not sure. It does have sombre notes to it and it does tell the story with some honesty but not quite enough for me. I cannot fault the quality of the acting or the writing. It is a good play and I did enjoy it. I just felt that it was a very kind telling of this story. Murdoch may be a master businessman but he is no hero. I don’t know. I think I needed to be older and more right wing to fully embrace this story. It’s all so tainted for me. It wasn’t for me but that does not mean it wasn’t good. I am torn. 

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