Ink by Laura Lexx – review

Published in Edfringereview

The publicity material for Laura Lexx’s debut play, Ink, proclaims a “dedication to exploring personal protest through words and worlds”. Exploring the personal disintegration of a grieving estate agent, Luca, who mourns the loss of his job, his father, and his lover, Ink lives up to this bold claim. Luca’s obsessive impatience with words stands for the futile attempt to search for meaning in a world whose tragedies – in this play, 7/7 and the “credit crunch” – belie a nihilism they cannot bring themselves to accept, while Luca’s hallucinations reveal an ultimately failed attempt to create a meaningful world, albeit a solipsistic one existing only in the mind of one desperate, depressed man. But it is Luca’s airheaded bimbo of a flatmate, adeptly acted by director-playwright Laura Lexx herself, who best expresses this nihilism; “people date, people fuck, people die”, she exclaims, impatient with Luca’s solemnity, which actor Peter Byrom carries over rather well.

Yet Ms Lexx fails to convey her message about the media with any authenticity. “Ink sets out to deal with the hypocrisy of a national media”, says the publicity material. Yet random references to the London Lite, The Times and The Independent, and a set consisting almost solely of old newspapers, do not entail a meaningful meditation on the media. Sure, Luca has his vaguely amusing hallucinations of jobbing journalists out to twist facts to create compelling copy, but Ms Lexx ends up doing the same thing – wrapping big issues in Hallmark Card sentimentality about beauty and truth. (Admittedly, that charge might equally be levelled against Keats…)

When she’s doing that at all. Most of the play actually consists of banal chitchat, the point of which was much beyond this reviewer. Perhaps it was too subtle. What has clearly happened is that Ms Lexx set out to say something about the media but ended up getting distracted by the psychology of grief and its manifestations in the banal. And the better for it.

The management of rising tensions demonstrated dramatic craft worthy of a two-a-penny creative writing course. This is no insult; a grasp of structure, however unoriginal, is better than no structure at all. There was one good metaphor in the whole play, but a fairly good one at that – the black-and-white colours of the world of print standing for the black-and-white worldview the media propagate: simplistic, but effective. The former, as it happens, could summarise the play as a whole. One wishes the same could be said for the latter.

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