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Review: Ink, at Almeida Theatre

30 June, 2017 — By Michael Stewart

Richard Coyle in Ink. PHOTO: MARC BRENNER

THE Dirty Digger of Fleet Street, demon wizard of Oz Rupert Murdoch did an awful lot to change print practices in the sixties and a lot of it was awful. James Graham’s rip-roaring play charts the early days of the rise of The Sun and the demise of standards.

Outsider Rupert seizes the ailing newspaper and transforms it into a tabloid to take on Britain’s then biggest selling paper, the Mirror.

At the centre of the drama, directed by Rupert Goold, is the canny editor Larry Lamb, who is not to be confused with Larry the Lamb a character in the Toytown kiddies’ show. Infantilising does seem to be on the books, however, as Rupe goes for massive, shouty headlines bigger than the actual story, acres of pictures and gossipy show biz tittle-tattle and bonking sex instead of boring old news.

Everything now is FUN,FUN,FUN. The team desperately scour Fleet Street for the sweepings of the trade; some old hands are press-ganged from El Vino’s and the Stab in the Back. Rupe is David and his Goliath is principled old school journo Hugh Cudlipp editor of the Daily Mirror.

Murdoch is a numbers man and wants his Sun to eclipse the Mirror’s readership which he does by dumbing down, or going “Forward with the People” as the Sun would have it. Eventually Rupe outstrips the Mirror by going topless; model Stephanie Rahn is persuaded to bare her nipples for improved circulation and thus page 3 is born. Now their readership is truly infantilised; they are breast fed. The rest is history.

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