Work life imitates art (and vice versa) in Jack McNamara‘s lightly amusing stage adaptation of Lars Von Trier’s cult film about an actor hired to play the role of a phantom company president.

Despite the slicing of a few original characters for dramatic effect, the premise of the play remains true to the film. In a soulless IT office in Denmark, jittery team leader Ravn has created an imaginary boss to absolve himself of any fallout from the less popular executive decisions and negative feedback that he’s just too afraid to deliver.

Only, in an attempt to sell the company, this phantom Boss must manifest and grant power of attorney to Ravn. Problematic? Yes, but easily resolved, or at least Ravn thinks, as he hires out of work actor Kristoffer (who just happens to take his craft very seriously), to act as this elusive boss.

Brought to Soho theatre by national touring company, New Perspectives; The Boss Of It All is a funny, clever, sketch-like production, which soon emerges as a double satire on the politics of the workplace and the theatre.

Kristoffer draws on Gambini and his craft to navigate the murky stage scripted by Ravn. He overplays his lines for climatic effect and through improvisation manages to endure the grudges held by the senior team members. He also brings a refreshing literalism into this workplace: “I’ve been finding my feet here… there they are.” It’s not difficult to imagine Kristoffer’s theatrics playing out within an office setting. His role piques questions of leadership, the vague language and the political entanglements within the workplace, whilst simultaneously calling out the quest for great art.

This interplay between the politics of two seemingly opposite arenas is seamless and a testament to McNamara’s skill as he fuses them neatly together. But, the quips do tire as the play progresses, creating a repetitive and at times self-indulgent milieu.

Lily Arnold‘s design encloses the staff within a drab office space, replete with frosted glass and grey interiors. Anna Bolton‘s delicate yet tortured Mette is convincing, but it’s Gerry Howell‘s Kristoffer that commandeers the production.

Mention must also be made of the voiceover, who interjects the play with a dry commentary, deconstructing the scenes and gifting the audience with the notion that they might not take anything away from the play; the expression of which, takes something away from the play. But perhaps that’s the point.

The Boss Of It All, Soho Theatre

(First published on What’s on Stage Jul ’14)