Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Proof, if it were needed, that leadership is an elusive skill. Few possess it but too many think that they do.
What is leadership? Pretty much all of us experience being led at some time in our lives. Many will find leadership thrust upon them at some point. Some take to it like the proverbial duck to water. To others it remains an art that they fail to master. Or don’t want to.
The Boss of it All, a play adapted from Lars Von Treir’s 2006 film, explores the meaning of leadership, what it takes to deliver it and whether those who think of themselves as leaders are actually up to the job. We’re in the office of an IT company, developing what exactly is never made clear, even to those working at the firm. Thus art beautifully imitates life. Talk to any company with more than ten employees and you’ll find that 90% of them don’t not what the grand design is, or even what they’re really supposed to be doing.
Ravn needs help. He’s selling out the IT company he founded by raising money from people who needed a job. But the buyers want to meet the boss Ravn continually refers to. Only this is a virtual boss so Ravn hires an actor to play the role. But the actor, like a lot of his profession, wants to put his own mark on the script handed to him by his paymaster.
Thus someone without a clue about the business or people he is supposed to be leading is thrust into a series of situations and encounters that necessitate careful thinking, open questioning and a lot very rapid adapting to the rapidly changing events. It’s an interesting exercise that demonstrates that life is very often not about the answers you give but the questions you ask. And it is also about making progress with a multitude of small steps, making sure that you can survive any failure and that you adapt quickly to any mistakes you do make. Just ask Peter Palchinsky.
The set is evocatively Danish, all clean lines and frosted glass, the accents are first class and there is some excellent verbal jousting between the Icelanders and Danes – they enjoy an empathy similar to that between Weegies and those from Edinburgh or the Scots and English. The characters are all nicely formed – we have the office wimp, the aggressor, the cynic and someone with all the mental stability of a house of cards.
And the denouement had an interesting twist to it. Or at least the first one did after about an hour. Then off we went around the loop we’d just emerged from to arrive at a different denouement. And then again for a third. By the time we finally got to the end, we were in hearty agreement with the excellent voice over artist, Claus Reiss (the only real Dane we heard from all day) who declared the show to be complete.
It all felt a bit odd, like we were stuck in a dream that in fact had no ending. Chopping ten or fifteen minutes off the piece would make it a whole lot sharper and ensure that the ending had impact. But there’s enough there to recommend it. Oh, and make sure you check out the credentials of your boss when you get into the office on Monday. He might not be what you think he is.