I bought a lottery ticket today. Yes, it’s an ‘idiot tax’ but sometimes it is nice to be able to dream a little and think about that first purchase; a nice house somewhere in central London, a pied-à-terre in Paris, a penthouse in the New York skyline? I could probably plan how to spend five million pretty quickly but 500 million… well I’d enjoy figuring that out over a few years.
Windfall is very much a play of two halves. The first half is an extended setup, reminiscent of an episode of The Office, with bickering and flirting and an overbearing boss in Glenn (Jack Bennett). All of a sudden Galvan (Gabriel Paul) has a vision. If he can convince each of the others to chip in $911 to buy lottery tickets, then the following morning at 9.11 they will find the winning ticket for $500 million among the thousands of tickets they’ve bought.
It is reasonable to assume from the first half that Windfall is planning to mine some comedy out of greed and distrust between the workers, and to interrogate the impact that a sudden fortune might have on a small group of colleagues If one person is sent to get the tickets, will they come back or will they run off with the winning ticket and book flights to a Caribbean island? This first half is fine, and whilst it is a little slow and there are a number of laughs. That said, it doesn’t set the evening up to be anything special, and everything suggests a second half that continues the current themes, while providing some solid laughs.
Oh boy, buckle your seatbelts! Windfall takes a sharp turn into the absurd, with over the top cartoonish violence, committed and often hilarious physical theatre. It looks realistic, and audience members turned away more than once. Credit to director Mark Bell, fight director Dave Nolan and the entire cast, who fully throw themselves into it. The accusations and recriminations move rapidly from verbals into farce, with a fun use of fake blood capsules. If there were an office kitchen sink, it would be thrown out along with nuance. While hilarious and hugely entertaining, this means that by the end there is no characterisation left. Each person is shrill and violent, and the desire for that $500 million becomes the sum total of each character, with all differentiation forgotten. The violence takes centre stage and overrides absolutely everything, making this a very shallow skim over the themes, but one that delivers a lot of laughs along the way. The volume could do with a little turn down too. The Large in the lovely Southwark Playhouse isn’t that large, but everyone on stage is shouting from the start, even when shouting isn’t called for.
Unfortunately my lottery ticket didn’t turn out to be a winner, so instead of a chauffeur driven car to my next show, I’ll be standing at the bus stop in the winter cold, waiting for my inevitably late bus. Best buy another lottery ticket…
Written by: Scooter Pietsch
Directed by: Mark Bell
Set and costume design by: Rachel Stone
Lighting design by: Robbie Butler
Fight direction by: Dave Nolan
Produced by: Adam Roebuck in association with Youda Jin and Marilyn Wilson/ Pop Productions/ Luluelle Productions
Windfall plays at Southwark Playhouse until 11 March. Further information and tickets can be found here.