Do you ever have the feeling that people who are in power are making it up as they go along? If you do you’re in good company as it seems to be a constant thread on social media and hardly surprising when Dido Harding, the head of the virus track and trace system, comes out with statements like “I don’t think anybody was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the course of the last few weeks.” Really? Just take a look at Twitter then. Be that as it may, New Perspectives’ latest online stream The Boss Of It All is a lively, timely and in places hilarious satire of that “on the hoof” approach to life.
Based on a 2006 film by the enfant terrible auteur Lars Von Trier and his own stage piece from Edinburgh in 2013, writer/director Jack McNamara’s clever play remorselessly targets the ineptitude of the governing classes and, along the way, takes some delightful pot shots at the pretensions of a certain type of actor.
The latter is embodied by Kristina who hasn’t worked much lately but gets hired to be the visible boss of an IT company when a figurehead is needed to clinch the sale of the business. She is hired by Ravn, the actual boss, who has been posing as an ordinary employee for years in order to throw up a smokescreen to protect himself from having to accept responsibility for anything.
As they say, “any resemblance to persons living or….” The rest of the middle management team who Kristina has to dupe are a quartet of employees with issues; the Head of Production has problems with anger management, the Head of Communications rarely has anything worthwhile to say and so on. To bring things up to date they are all working remotely from home. Kristina has to muddle her way through staff appraisals, a team building (non) away day and the final negotiations with the company’s intending purchaser. In perhaps one of the funniest scenes of all she has to host I.T. Laid Bare: A Visionary Webinar and relay some of Ravn’s unpopular changes which he is too cowardly to announce himself (“I humiliate you to empower you”). The staff reactions, played out as comments in a sidebar, are priceless.
Essentially the play is a high octane version of The Office with the politics of such an establishment being played out as farce. And a good farce often revolves around an innocent left all at sea by circumstances. Here it is Kristina as played by the wonderful Josie Lawrence. Kristina is not a great actor; in fact, she is not even a particularly good one. Lawrence though is and she gets us to understand that her character does actually recognise her limitations but nevertheless still tries to muddle through mostly by putting on a pretentious veneer where she wants to discuss character motivation all the time and spend ages thinking about what accent she should use.
Just one of many delightful moments comes when Kristina declares that she doesn’t really get on with improv. Coming from Lawrence (queen of Whose Line Is It Anyway?) this was just delicious. Equally good is Ross Armstrong as the cowardly and manipulative Ravn and the quartet who make up the middle management team with their all their idiosyncrasies (Angela Bain, Rachel Summers, Yuriko Kotani and Jamie de Courcey). To add to the fun a different guest star makes an appearance at each performance – last night it was cabaret artiste Le Gateau Chocolat entering into the fun.
I couldn’t quite decide whether the synching issues, the freezes, hiccoughs and glitches in transmission were planned or accidental and whether it was the broadcasting system or my internet that was playing up. Fortunately, everything held together and as the deficiencies of video calls are well known to most of us now it added yet another layer of contemporary comedy to the situation. In point of fact the roughness of the stream actually added to the fun of it all particularly when some real improv took over. There was one section where the dialogue went round in a bit of a circle but when that’s happening, having Josie Lawrence on board can only be a good thing. I don’t know the film on which the play is based but plan to look it out. In the meantime, I can truthfully say that I thoroughly enjoyed this performance on a variety of levels and would strongly recommend it though you will have to be quick as it is only on for four more performances. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite lines that particularly resonated as I opened this morning’s newspaper to the chaos that seems just about to engulf us all again: “You’re a classic leader – confused, incompetent and spineless”! Stay safe.