The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild’s rendition of “Ink” by James Graham takes us on a profound journey into the heart of media empire-building. As the curtains rise, we’re transported back to 1969, where Rupert Murdoch, masterfully portrayed by Joshua Coldwell, is on the brink of acquiring The Sun, a newspaper that’s about to undergo a transformation that will echo through history. This is where the captivating journey begins, as Murdoch persuades Larry Lamb (Bart Csorba) to take on the role of its editor, with Csorba delivering an equally remarkable portrayal.
The play’s premise is as riveting as it is thought-provoking. It promises “One hell of a story,” and it delivers on that pledge. Csorba conveys Lamb’s intensity and his moments of self-doubt with great skill and what’s particularly surprising is how, by the end of the first half, you might find yourself liking Rupert Murdoch, a testament to Coldwell’s layered portrayal of the media mogul.
Of course, the core of this play rests on the great performances by Bart Csorba and Joshua Coldwell. Their characters are multi-dimensional, and they both shine in their roles. But they’re not alone; the supporting cast is equally impressive, with each member of the ensemble contributing to the play’s success ensuring that every character gets their moment in the spotlight.
Gary George impresses as the heroic drinker and News Editor, Brian McConnell. Kate Anolak excels in dual roles, portraying the Women’s Editor, Joyce Hopkirk, and Muriel McKay. Stuart Pearce, as Chief Sub, Ray Mills, adds a touch of comedy and depth. John Rosen embodies the sports reporter Frank Nicklin, while David Lockwood portrays the older, meticulous, and pernickety deputy editor, Bernard Shrimsley with aplomb. Steve Marvanek, as Hugh Cudlipp, embodies the essence of an old-school editor who offers a poignant warning about pandering to people’s basest instincts. Each of them contributes their unique energy to the stage.
In essence, this is an awesome ensemble cast, making it all too easy to overlook the other characters. They all deserve mention, and Maxwell Whigham’s portrayal of 10 different characters is a testament to the cast’s versatility.
The excellence of the production extends beyond the actors, with the set design and direction delivering many memorable moments. The cleverly positioned Mirror office above The Sun symbolizing the David and Goliath battle between the two, and Steve Marvanek’s Cudlipp, with his wise words, reminds us how that story ends.
Directors Robert Bell and Rebecca Kemp deserve credit for their meticulous direction, especially in the dynamic newsroom scenes where ideas are tossed around, creating a vibrant atmosphere. Lamb’s high-energy quest to assemble his new team was also well directed and was elevated by the use of original music by Phil Short. The music throughout was appropriate, added to the story’s atmosphere, and enhanced the emotional impact of key moments in the play. The excellent set design by Normajeane Ohlsson provides a rich backdrop for the action to unfold, effectively embodying the bustling newsroom, showcasing headlines on the wall, and creating an immersive environment that enhances the storytelling.
This play forces us to contemplate the lasting legacy of The Sun’s transformation on the British media landscape, and beyond. It delves into the ethical and personal dilemmas faced by Lamb and his team as they chase success at any cost, making us question the line between morality and ambition. And, of course, we can’t forget the iconic “push over the edge” moment—the introduction of the Page 3 girls which causes both discomfort and reflection. Murdoch’s goal for The Sun to outsell The Mirror in one year isn’t just a numerical target—it’s about causing a disruption in the media world.
The play’s attention to detail is so compelling that you can almost smell the ink in the air. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments scattered throughout the play, often driven by the clever and witty dialogues. It’s a production that compels you to “Hold the front page” and grab a ticket for a powerful show, taking you on a rollercoaster of emotions that run strong throughout the performance.