“OK, you listening?”
“Good, ’cause I want to tell you a story,” hisses a young Rupert Murdoch, standing on the Almeida’s dimly lit stage. “And it’s true. That’s what makes it a good f***ing story, right, ’cause all the best stories are true.”
So begins James Graham’s latest play Ink (until August 5) which, set in the 60s, charts The Sun’s dramatic journey from an ailing broadsheet to the brazenly influential tabloid Wot Won It, crammed with TV and topless girls, sport, weather and sex—things editor Larry Lamb decided people would actually want to read. The first half, following the establishment of the revolutionary title, sees the cast frantically brainstorming amongst Bunny Christie’s stunning set, clambering over an artfully stacked assemblage of old-school wooden desks, and scattering sheaves of paper over the floor.
Post-interval, the plot is more acute. Probing Lamb’s frenzied emphasis on circulation and commerciality at the cost of all else, it asks an array of moral questions—all too familiar in the current climate—but, gracefully, avoids being overly moralizing.
The cast of Ink at the Almeida
Down at the National Theatre, Rufus Norris is directing Lucy Kirkwood’s latest play, Mosquitoes (until September 28). With a cast that includes Olivia Colman, the plot pivots around family and particle physics. A quick walk past Waterloo, the Old Vic are staging Girl from the North Country (until October 7), written and directed by award-winning Conor McPherson. Set in Duluth, Minnesota, 1934, the spiralling story—featuring a boxer and a bible-selling preacher—is artfully woven through with the music and lyrics of Bob Dylan.
Moving metaphorically some states South, and literally a few yards down the road, Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell star in an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (until October 7) at the Apollo theatre. Set on a plantation, where the bourbon flows freely, it is a quintessential tragedy about lies and loneliness and patriarchy. A shuddering look at human isolation, it was Williams’s favourite of his plays.
For something more current, don’t miss Touch (until August 28) at the Soho Theatre which, from the creators of smash-hit, sex-filled, feminist sitcom Fleabag, couldn’t be more zeitgeist-y. Centred around 33-year-old Dee, who lives in a small London flat, and has a large and messy love life, it’s a shameless and searingly funny play about sex, connection and control.
Across town at the Royal Court, Jim Cartwright’s seminal Road (until September 9) is being reprised. Set on the main drag of a small, anonymous town in Thatcher-era Lancashire, it unfolds across a series of vignettes, slipping in and out of the lives of its subjects with a twist of desperation and humour administered so skilfully that, when the show premiered in 1987, The Observer deemed it “the most significant and original new English play” for years.—Isobel Thompson
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Credits: Charlie Gray, Marc Brenner