The play adds a musical and absurd quality to the story of the British tabloid.
Millions of people have been reading The Sun, the infamous British tabloid published by Rupert Murdoch since he took control back in 1969. The story of how a young Murdoch teamed with journalist Larry Lamb to assemble a team of scrappy underdog journalists to transform the then-struggling paper into a populist juggernaut is told in the play, “Ink.”
Through a dramatized, fictional account, Graham’s book tells the story of how The Sun went from a flailing newspaper to the world’s most successful tabloid. In the production, Andrew Rein plays Rupert Murdoch opposite Cody Nickell as Larry Lamb.
“My character was picked by Rupert Murdoch to run the paper and he was picked because he was an outsider who was successful to a point, but wasn’t part of the old club of those who went to certain universities or had accolades or riches passed down,” Nickell says. “Larry Lamb was someone who was looked over often, and Murdoch also felt looked over a lot of his life.”
The play made its Broadway premiere in 2019, and though billed as “an exciting drama,” there’s a mix of comedy, absurdism and even musical numbers peppered in.
“We have the Newspaper Ballet, which I don’t want to give too much away about, but it uses various narrative forms to shape and pull the audience along,” Nickell says. “Many people in the audience will know some of the history, so we have to take what they know and shape it to our version of events so they go on our journey, and comedy is an excellent tool to surprise and heighten staging on this really fun ride.”
While some may see Larry as a “jerk,” including Nickell’s wife Kate Eastwood Norris who is also in the show, the actor doesn’t think it’s that simple.
“Humans are complicated, complex people and the ability to reflect on that through narrative, allows me to see those complexities more clearly and have more empathy,” he says.
A drama graduate of Carnegie Mellon, Nickell has been involved in theatre for the greater part of his life. He’s been working steadily in the greater D.C. theatre community for the last 17 years.
Nickell has been appearing in shows at Round House for the past five years and though he’s known Loewith for a long time, this is the first chance he’s had to work with him. He was excited about that, even though it was for a show he wasn’t very familiar with.
“I didn’t know much at all about the purchase of The Sun and the circulation wars that took place in England, and some of the choices made to get it to where it was,” Nickell says. “It’s been fascinating to learn, and though it definitely takes some dramatic license, we also learn the real history of the people involved. James Graham has created a very taut and tight piece of theatre that’s infectious.”
Tickets start at $46 and can be found here.
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