INK – Almeida Theatre

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Almeida Theatre, London – until 5 August 2017

With the news of its West End transfer in autumn – well deserved –  I  finally caught up with INK.

I agree with his rating of five, and am as ever dazzled by James Graham’s remarkable ability to recreate a past world and a half-forgotten crisis which still matters, and above all to do it  without tiresome message-signalling or caricature.

It is a remarkably humane and thoughtful piece. And Goold and designer Bunny Christie make marvellous dramatic use both of newspaper office mess and hot-metal drama, now almost forgotten as the grey screens flip silently before dazed eyes in quiet offices or the bedrooms and cafes of freelancers.

– Carvel’s body language as Murdoch is clever: shoulders round, somehow both slouching and looming. I like the the gentle upscale Aussie accent, so far from the cruder “Aussie hooligan” caricatures of satirists. Graham’s script also catches the chip on the shoulder and the underreported but well-attested Murdoch primness: an instinctive recoil at the more knickery end of pop journalism.

– I wondered whether the story – though true – of Muriel MacKay’s horrible fate would feel bolted-on, but Graham has used it to make the darkening of the play a Faustus legend, a story of fun turning to decay as Larry Lamb chases the chimera of beating his old paper, the Mirror, with any weapons to hand.

– The fun itself, the defiant Fleet Street romance and cheek, quite brilliantly done. I had forgotten about the tinned knickers and the Southend werewolf…

– In this age of stripped red carpet celebs waving their sideboobs, and innumerable online and lad-mag titshows , it hard to believe now that a nipple could cause such outrage and panic. Even from Cardinals and Downing Street and Mary Whitehouse. And the first page 3 girl disgraced,  told not to come back to her drama school..today she’d be summa cum laude.

– But above all, it was mesmerising to find so much of our own age foreshadowed – The understaffed new Sun was getting readers to supply stories ,long before citizen journalism was coined and social media dreamed of.   And beyond that there’s the populism, exuberantly crass, so dismaying to the sober Cudlipp and the broadsheets. A sense of angry insouciant mass feeling and reckless appetite prefigures both   Brexit and Momentum.

Or, at least, the  chinstroking liberal establishment reaction to them…plenty of Cudlipps out there..

So, still five enthusiastic press mice.    No point battering down the doors of the Almeida now, it will transfer quite beautifully to the Duke of York’s.

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Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.
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Libby Purves on RssLibby Purves on Twitter
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.

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