“Give a Man a Mask and He’ll Tell You the Truth”

From an April 14 New York Times story, “Cut Out to Play a Media Tycoon,” by Matt Trueman. The story’s deck: “In ‘Ink,’ Bertie Carvel explores the depths of Rupert Murdoch.”

Mr. Carvel comes from a long line of newshounds—another reason he was so right for “Ink.” His great-grandfather wrote for The Star; his grandfather, for the Evening Standard; and he retains a “visceral” childhood memory of The Guardian newsroom where his father, John, worked for 36 years.

“Desks piled high with papers and phones and all sorts of mess,” Mr. Carvel recalled. The play’s set design brought it all rushing back: “I love the smell of newsprint,” he said.

Mr. Carvel might have followed a more creative path, but he sees an overlap between his storytelling and his father’s: “Imagination and truth, that’s not a dichotomy for me.” His process is part psychology, part journalism: rooted in research, but free to empathize.

It’s not like if you read everything that had ever been written on your subject you’d automatically give a good performance,” he said. “The point of research is to reach the point where you can throw it away.”

The key, Mr. Carvel explained, is finding a character’s contradictions. His Murdoch might drive The Sun down-market, but he’s prudish about his editor’s proposals for Page Three. “Being prosaic, that’s what makes people people,” Mr. Carvel said.

He’s talked in the past about finding the man in the monster. Is there a monster lurking in Bertie Carvel?

“Oh yeah, of course,” he replied, straight away. “What’s that Oscar Wilde quotation? ‘Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.’” Mr. Carvel swilled the last of his nice Chianti. “I really do believe that.”


  1. Barnard Collier says

    Dear Jack,

    In Brazil they say, “Give a man a caipirinha and he’ll tell you the truth.”

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