“We begin our story in Denmark. With an actor.”
Given the publicity-garnering controversial nature of much of his work, it is a little surprising that The Boss of it All actually marks the first time one of Lars von Trier’s films has made it onto a UK stage but then again, perhaps not – Antichrist the musical anyone, an immersive version of Nymphomaniac..? Jack McNamara should then be applauded for such a bold move with his first adaptation for renowned touring company New Perspectives, not least because it really is very good.
It is an astutely observed office comedy – Gerry Howell plays Kristoffer, an unemployed actor who is taken on by an IT company in dire straits to pretend to be the boss so that others can make the necessary difficult decisions under cover. It is a role to which he discovers he was born, slotting perfectly into the all-too-recognisable world of office politics with its petty rivalries and inexplicable peculiarities but sure enough, when it comes to pulling the trigger, he finds he might have gotten in a bit too deep.
There’s a really clever kind of comedy at work here, one that speaks of intelligence as so much of it is rooted in recognisably human traits. David Brent et al made (some) people laugh in a similar way as the office becomes almost a universe in miniature, we see elements of ourselves and our working lives laid out on the stage and whilst we chuckle, we know that it is because so much of it is true.
Theatrically it also works because of the cleverness with which McNamara has adapted the source material. A routine involving translation between Icelandic and Danish is hilarious for being played out in English; the sardonic voice of Claus Reiss’ narration is an unexpected but thrilling presence; the condensation of the film into the more intimate world of the theatre sharpens so much of its bite. A truly classy piece of work, well worth the trip.