Thursday, 10 July 2014

Theatre review: The Boss of it All

If the concept of a Lars von Trier comedy isn't weird enough, the comedy itself certainly is. Based on a more-or-less forgotten1 von Trier film, Jack McNamara's The Boss of it All is set in a Danish IT company that's been running for 10 years largely thanks to the success of a single programme. It's owned by the ruthless Ravn (Ross Armstrong,) who despite being happy to trick his staff out of their rights to the programme they created, and cutting their perks to boost his own profits, wants to be loved by them. So for the last decade he's hidden the fact that it's actually his own company. The staff think he's a long-suffering manager, grudgingly passing down the draconian commands of a fictitious MD, Svend. When he decides to sell the company to an Icelandic millionaire with a hatred of the Danes who will inevitably fire everyone, he needs Svend to actually make an appearance, so hires unemployed actor Kristoffer (Gerry Howell.)

Faced with the eccentric staff, Kristoffer finds the job a test of his improvisational skills, but as he gets to know and like them he tries to get Ravn to treat them better.


And eccentric is the right name for a staff that includes Gorm (James Rigby,) whose violent mood swings sees him punch "Svend" on their first meeting, Lise (Kate Kordel,) who seems fixated with the new boss' sexuality, the sandal-wearing Nalle (Tom McHugh,) who occasionally needs a hug to keep him going through the day, and Mette (Anna Bolton,) who looks so perpetually on the verge of tears she could have been played by Kit Harrington.


McNamara, who also directs his adaptation, has a tendency to deal with the surreal material with a self-conscious quirkiness that often feels desperate: The narration by a heavily-accented Voice (Claus Reiss,) which picks apart every theatrical convention being used, isn't as funny or engaging as it clearly hopes to be, and although we're far removed from realism, the mechanics of how Ravn put his company together purely to exploit people are so implausible it stops the play from really working as a satire of horrible bosses2.


There are unquestionably some excellent comic moments though - the office workers' horribly earnest song in praise of their boss is cringingly hilarious, the cast give admirably po-faced deliveries and Kristoffer's adulation of an obscure playwright is a good running gag with a neat pay-off. The Boss of it All is funny, but not quite as funny as it thinks it is.

The Boss of it All by Jack McNamara, based on the film by Lars von Trier, is booking until the 27th of July at Soho Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes straight through.

1I guess if he's not driving Björk insane or getting Shia LaBeouf to text him dick pics, nobody really cares

2if the senior managers personally loaned Ravn the start-up money, how do they not know it's his company?

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