While most of us have surely had enough of Zoom meetings this year, writer and director Jack McNamara uses the format to great effect in updating this show to these coronavirus times.
Continuing the strong work this year from theatre company New Perspectives, the office-based comedy, originally a Lars von Trier film, is a clear candidate for adaptation. The result is nonetheless impressive.
There’s fun from the start as an actress, Kristina, is recruited into a scam by unscrupulous IT boss, Ravn. The jokes about Kristina’s seriousness and pretensions are solid; that she isn’t very successful is worked in well. It will be her job to take the blame for his decisions – pretending to be titular CEO. Needless to say, Kristina ends up taking the role a little too seriously, helping to make “worlds work”, then worrying about her “moral duty”.
A “visionary” IT webinar and staff appraisals follow and are both terrific. A team building exercise works less well (don’t they always?) and the finale isn’t hard to see coming. Ravn’s plot for the company, and the question of whether or not he will take responsibility, are deliberately deflated by the show’s satirical PoMo tone – but that irony is itself predictable. Likewise, oh-so-knowing narration between the scenes enforces how forced the humour is. Which is not to say that you won’t laugh…just that the script is contrived and heavy-handed here.
“Confusing, incompetent and spineless”
Adding a sense of joy and fun are strong performances that bring some lightness to the show. Josie Lawrence is excellent as Kristina. To see such an accomplished improvisor joke about the format provides an extra edge. Lawrence is joined by Ross Armstrong, as “giggling shitbag” Ravn, who is just as good. A checklist for poor leadership – “confusing, incompetent and spineless” – each is given its due to great effect.
Those unfortunate enough to work for Ravn also aid the piece. The team has, not surprisingly, a “lot of baggage” – Yuriko Kotani and Angela Bain are especially good with their bizarre backstories. Such eccentrics, traumatised by working from home, get yet more laughs. McNamara is consistently strong with the particular trials of our times so updating The Boss of It All proves a Zoom meeting worth attending.