Friday 4 July 2014

Theatre Review: The Boss of it All (Soho)

Made between the controversial (and brilliant) Dogville follow-up Manderlay (2005) and the even-more-controversial (but less brilliant) Antichrist (2009), Lars von Trier’s 2006 work The Boss of it All feels rather like the von Trier film that got away. The movie certainly has its admirers (I know several people who swear by its greatness). But as a lower-keyed proposition than the attention-seeking shock-fests that have constituted most of von Trier’s recent output it’s a film that many may not be aware of. Which is a shame, as this corporate comedy based around a sitcom premise (an out-of-work actor is hired by the boss of an ailing IT firm to pretend to be the “real” boss and thus take the rap and the responsibility for unpopular decisions) sustains a droll, distinctive atmosphere, even if you don’t very often hear yourself laughing out loud.   
The first von Trier adaptation to make it to the UK stage, Jack McNamara’s skilful production for his New Perspectives company does make you laugh out loud. I found the play much more purely enjoyable than the film:  better structured, pacier, more focused in its exploration of the idea of leadership as performance, and, simply, a whole lot funnier. Making some judicious cuts to the plot and characters, McNamara retains - and, indeed, accentuates - some of the film’s arch meta conceits, including narration (provided by von Trier soundalike Claus Reiss) that comments  on the staging and anticipates audience response, which works nicely.  The production has a razor sharp clarity that's  aided by Lily Arnold’s sleek, stylish design and a cast – Gerry Howell, Ross Armstrong, Anna Bolton, Tom McHugh, Kate Kordel and James Rigby – who work together wonderfully well, creating a great office dynamic. Swift, smart and terrific fun.

Booking until 27 July.

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