15/07/14 - 'The Boss Of It All' at the Soho Theatre

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be contacted with the opportunity to attend the press night of a new play at the Soho Theatre down in London and of course I jumped at the chance!  It wasn't just the draw of free tickets that tempted me (although obviously that never hurts), but the chance to get to see something totally different and something I probably wouldn't have even known about otherwise.  I was particularly interested in the idea of seeing a new adaptation of such an unusual work, and this is something that New Perspectives as a theatre company are known for.

Lars von Trier is a name that, despite not being much of a movie buff, I was aware of when I read it in the first email.  I knew that he is generally known for making pretty controversial and challenging films, and the press release told me that The Boss of it All is considered to be the most accessible of his works and certainly his only comedy.  This was really all I had to go on.  I did buy the DVD of von Trier's 2006 film previously to seeing the stage production but didn't get around to watching it until afterwards.  While normally I'm a fan of accessing the original source material before diving into the adaptations, I don't think my experience was at all diminished by having very little prior knowledge before sitting down in the theatre.

Unfortunately, the fact that I had arrived in London straight from work and not eaten anything took its toll and resulted in me and Megan, my date for the evening, missing the very beginning of the play.  This was a shame since it meant that it took us a few minutes to really understand what was going on.  Thankfully, it didn't take long for us to get into the loop.  The premise is simple yet effective; Ravn (Ross Armstrong) is the Danish boss of an IT company who has never admitted the fact that he's in charge to his colleagues and subsequently hires an actor to play the role of company president in order to handle the negotiations of selling the company to an Icelandic businessman, Finnur, who insists on dealing directly with the boss.  Of course, the initial deal doesn't go as smoothly as Ravn might have hoped and Kristoffer (Gerry Howell), the actor, is required to adopt the role of 'Svend', the eponymous boss of it all, for longer than he bargained for and as a result becomes the scapegoat for a lot of Ravn's unpopular managerial decisions.

(L to R) Anna Bolton, Tom McHugh, Gerry Howell, Kate Kordel, James Rigby
Image courtesy of Pamela Raith Photography
One of my favourite elements of the play that was certainly enhanced in the stage production was the hilarity of the interpreter.  Unless you speak both Danish and Icelandic, these scenes are entirely reliant on subtitles on screen.  However, since all the actors onstage were speaking English, the audience really got a sense of the slight tweaks that Finnur's interpreter made to his comments before relaying them to Ravn and 'Svend'.  I was also a big fan of the play's very simple and versatile staging, consisting of four frosted glass screens and some basic office furniture.  It resulted in the cast being somewhat trapped within their office environment but I felt that this enhanced the sense of claustrophobia that Kristoffer must have felt in a role he was struggling to understand as well as that felt by desk-bound office workers all over the world. 

Jack McNamara's adaptation does a really wonderful job of converting the film's themes to the stage.  'The Boss of it All' explores the fine line between reality and artifice, as well as parodying modern corporate working environment.  It soon becomes obvious that no one in this company really seems to know what it is that they do, a fact that is made abundantly clear as 'Svend' manages to blag his way through an IT conference without arousing too much suspicion as to the nature of his deception.  I feel that, while the original film is very amusing and definitely worth a watch, this production is possibly slightly more accessible to a wider audience and certainly something that I'd recommend catching before it closes. 

'The Boss of it All' is playing at the Soho Theatre until 27th July 2014, and I highly recommend that you see it while you can!  After all, who could resist 'probably the best Danish office comedy in the world'?  More information about the production and how to get tickets can be found here.

1 comment:

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