A review of David Williamson’s Rupert, a play charting the career of News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, was pulled from publication in Melbourne’s Herald Sun and is unlikely to appear in the paper.
Regular Herald Sun theatre reviewer Kate Herbert filed a review, which could have run as early as Friday, for the Murdoch tabloid. Four days after Rupert opened on Thursday, the play has still not been reviewed by Melbourne’s biggest-selling paper in print or online. Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston today suggested his paper is unlikely to publish a review of the play at all — despite it being arguably the most anticipated original Australian production of the year. Johnston tells Crikey the play is too “niche” for his readers’ tastes.
The Herald Sun usually uploads its theatre reviews online the day after a play opens, but the Rupert review has not made it onto the website. The play has been reviewed in The Age, The Australian, The Weekend Australian, The Australian Financial Review and Crikey.
Crikey understands the question of how to cover Rupert has been highly sensitive among the top brass at News Corp’s Southbank HQ in Melbourne. Rupert Murdoch, like mother Elisabeth, was born in Melbourne and many Murdoch relatives still live in Victoria.
When asked whether his paper would review the production, Johnston said: “The Herald Sun only undertakes to run reviews for what we consider mainstream productions such as King Kong, Mary Poppins, Mousetrap, Grease and Jersey Boys. These are the kinds of shows that interest the vast majority of our readers. Reviews of niche productions — and we would include most MTC productions in this category — have never been guaranteed a run.”
But the Herald Sun has reviewed all of this year’s MTC productions — including Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Constellations (apparently an exploration of string theory and the delicacy of relationships) and Solomon and Marion (about life in post-apartheid South Africa).
Rupert, which will tour the US next year, has attracted international attention. The New York Times is currently preparing a piece on the play, which is expected to focus on how Murdoch’s tabloids have reacted to it.
The Herald Sun published a lengthy feature on the Melbourne Theatre Company production in mid-August, but since then there has been an eerie silence about the play in its pages. The paper commissioned Williamson to write a piece on the play three weeks ago, but it has not been published and may never make it to print.
As for Williamson’s in-depth piece, Johnston said: “At this stage it hasn’t run. As to whether it will run at some stage in the future will be determined by available space and other stories competing for that space.”
Any sensitivity about the play hasn’t extended to News Corp stablemate The Australian which published a review of the play today and a news story last week. Oz reviewer Chris Boyd told Crikey: “My editor was hands-off, as usual, with me.”